Saturday, March 6, 2010

I May Not Get There With You: The True Martin Luther King Jr. by Michael Eric Dyson

Genre: nonfiction, African-American studies
FTC Disclosure: borrowed from library
Published: 2000
Pages: 416
Content: PG-13 for language and thematic elements
Reading Challenges: Black History Month Mini-Reading Challenge

This was a huge eye-opener for me on Martin Luther King, Jr. This book told his story warts and all. Dyson explores various aspects of Martin Luther King, Jr. in each chapter from his radical social democracy ideas, anti-Vietnam protests, to his plagiarism and multiple infidelities.

I felt Dyson got a bit preachy and his footnotes were really hard to follow and sometimes his commentary was all over the map, but overall I was overwhelmed by the true Dr. King! An amazing and complex person. I figured that was the case, but I really had no idea who he was and this book really opened that up for me.

Here are a few ideas from the book:

p.77 "Bottom line of any ideology for King was its effectiveness in analyzing and relieving human suffering...Democratic socialism...establish social justice by destroying poverty."

p. 132 "Like King, we should translate our beliefs about love into concrete action. Justice is what love sounds like when it speaks in public."

p. 136 "By acknowledging his warts, we might better understand his greatness."

p.141 "...King had a genius for knowing what intellectual and spiritual resources to bring together, and to know when such a fusion would make the most sense and the greatest impact on his hearers."

p.208 "...King's sexist beliefs were nurtured in a black religious culture that depended largely on the labor of poor and working-class and middle-class southern black women. These women infused black culture with spiritual fire and moral imagination. They also placed their enormous skills and talents at the disposal of the movement."

p.283 "Now why did Ronald Regan sign that bill? Could it be that Mr. Regan understood that the easiest way to get ride of martin Luther king, Jr. is to worship him? To honor him with a holiday that he never would have wanted. To celebrate his birth and his death, without committing ourselves to his vision and his love. It is easier to recognize a dead hero than to recognize and follow a living prophet. The best way to dismiss any challenge is to exalt and adore the empirical source through which the challenge has come."

p. 295 "But the holiday celebrations must move beyond the charismatic center of King's personality to emphasize the resistance movements of ordinary black folk in the sixties and still today."

p.305 "King meant nothing less than to change the wolrd. He was out to make America behave against its will in a way that is cherished by people who love each other enough that they argue and fight for what is right before they will tell lies and live in false peace...he is a hero who loved America so much that he became sold for a price. He is a hero who loved AMerica so much that he became full of rage and anger for our failing to treat the least to the best our nation can offer, whether that meant money or enough space to live without cramped ambitions or stunted hopes."

"Martin Luther King, Jr. is the greatest American in our history because in his life the contradictory meanings of American democracy found a perfect and healing embodiment...King's genius was the willingness to risk everything he was--a preacher, a leader, a husband, a father, a son, a brother, a black man--to make America all that it could become...He freed the American black soul to love its black self and, hence, to love itself wholly and universally. He embraced the best of America and made it better."

Dyson just says it all much better than me. Check it out, you'll be blown away!

Rating: 4.5/5

Challenge update: This is my own mini-challenge and I've completed two out of four! I wanted to finish them by the end of February, but that obviously didn't happen so my new goal is for the end of March!


  1. I've seen this one and really thought it looked interesting. It's always nice to get a full perspective on the people that we've put up on pedestals.

  2. I remember when this came out. I know little about Martin Luther King and it's embarassing! Thanks for the recommendation.

  3. we tend to really idolize our heroes, and it's important to remember that they're human, which is really what makes what they did the more remarkable.


Thanks for reading my posts and for letting me know what you think!


Related Posts with Thumbnails