Martin Luther King Jr exercised a tremendous degree of influence in
a movement that between 1955 and 1965 successfully dismantled a
system of legalised racial segregation and disfranchisement
entrenched for over sixty years in the United States. How did King,
who came from a subordinated group within American society, help
effect this change? What background, characteristics, abilities and
ideas enabled him to do this? Why was King so important in shaping
the civil rights movement?
John A. Kirk looks at the sources of King's power in the black
community and its relationship to wider American society, focusing
particularly on the role of the black church, the philosophy of
nonviolence and issues of leadership, whilst paying due attention
to the voices of King's critics and detractors and to the
limitations of his power. He locates King firmly within the context
of other leaders and organisations, voices and opinions, and
tactics and ideologies, which made up the movement as a whole.
Fifty years after the Montgomery bus boycott, which launched
King's movement leadership, this book moves beyond the
all-too-often oversimplified story of King's life and times to
provide an innovative analytical framework for understanding the
role played by one of the United States' most important historical
John A. Kirk is senior lecturer in US History at Royal Holloway,
University of London. He has written extensively on the history of
the civil rights movement, including "Redefining the Color Line:
Black Activism in Little Rock, Arkansas, 1940 1970" (2002) which
won the 2003 J. G. Ragsdale Book Award.""
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