A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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His speeches stirred a generation to change -- and outlined a practical way to economic freedom and true democracy. His words would help bring about the end of a brutally unequal system -- and would show a timeless method for achieving fairness and justice for all.

A Call to Conscience is a milestone collection of Dr. King's most influential and best-known speeches. Compiled by Stanford historian Dr. Clayborne Carson, director of the King Papers Project, and by contributing ...

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A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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His speeches stirred a generation to change -- and outlined a practical way to economic freedom and true democracy. His words would help bring about the end of a brutally unequal system -- and would show a timeless method for achieving fairness and justice for all.

A Call to Conscience is a milestone collection of Dr. King's most influential and best-known speeches. Compiled by Stanford historian Dr. Clayborne Carson, director of the King Papers Project, and by contributing editor Kris Shepard, this volume takes you behind the scenes on an astonishing historical journey -- from the small, crowded church in Montgomery, Alabama, where "The Birth of a New Nation" ignited the modern civil rights movement; to the center of the nation's capital, where "I Have a Dream" echoed through a nation's conscience; to the Mason Temple in Memphis, where over ten thousand people heard Dr. King give his last, transcendent speech, "I've Been to the Mountaintop," the night before his assassination. In twelve important introductions, some of the world's most renowned leaders and theologians -- Andrew Young, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, and Mrs. Rosa Parks, among others -- share with you their reflections on these speeches and give priceless firsthand testimony on the events that inspired their delivery.

Expressing a deeply felt faith in democracy, the power of loving change, and a self-deprecating humor, A Call to Conscience is Dr. King speaking today. It is a unique, unforgettable record of the words that rallied millions, forever changed the face of America, and even today shape our deepest personal hopes and dreams for the future.

A collection of more than 30 original essays by some of the most celebrated spiritual writers of our time, from Jack Canfield and Bernie Siegel to John Gray and Robert Fulghum, Handbook for the Soul offers an unprecedented treasury of personal insights and timeless wisdom.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In his introduction, the one-time ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young refers to MLK as "the voice of the century," and this collection deftly pays homage to that powerful voice. Carson (a Stanford University historian) and Shepard have compiled 12 of King's greatest speeches and prefaced them with touching and inspiring introductions written and read by prominent activists, leaders and theologians, including the Dalai Lama, Sen. Edward Kennedy and others. There's a lot more here than the "I Have a Dream" masterpiece (which is beautifully introduced by Dr. Dorothy I. Height, longtime president of the National Council of Negro Women). The material ranges from King's early talks in Alabama churches to the magnificent "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech, which he gave the night before his assassination. Many of the recordings have a raw quality, giving them authenticity. When King proclaims in his address to the first Montgomery Improvement Association mass meeting that democracy is "the greatest form of government on earth," the attendees' background cheers are so deafening that listeners will have to turn down the volume. The only element lacking in this noteworthy production is an adequate set of liner notes there are no dates for the material showcased, nor do the editors tell which speeches are on which CD. Simultaneous release with the Warner hardcover. (Jan.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
The word "landmark" may be applied not only to these speeches of King's but to this production as well. Great care has been taken in the writing and reading of introductions to each piece by some of the great names in Civil Rights history, bearing witness to King's call to conscience. Participants include Coretta Scott King, Andrew Young, Martin Luther King III, Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, and Dr. Dorothy I. Height. To hear an audience swell with excitement as King slowly and confidently builds emotional tension tempered with moral reasoning and intellectual prowess is to feel the thrill of what it must have been like to be in the great man's presence. This monumental work will be an invaluable addition to all library collections. Products of their time, some of the original recordings contain flaws in audio quality, but this does not detract at all from the overwhelming power and inherent goodness of the words or the man who spoke them. Mark Pumphrey, Polk Cty. P.L., Columbus, NC Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
In the midst of a chaotic and often empty-seeming world, more and more people are searching for ways to rekindle the power of the soul, since the soul has always been understood to connect us to an immaterial realm characterized by peace. The contributors to this little handbook, some of the most popular contemporary spiritual writers, address the role of the soul in everyday life, lessons of the soul, soul communion, and the return to the soul. On the one hand, this book contains little that is genuinely new in the contemporary search for the soul. On the other hand, where else can you find the accumulated spiritual wisdom of gurus like Matthew Fox, Lynn Andrews, and Robert Fulghum between the covers of one book? Buy where demand warrants.
Donna Seaman
Carlson and Shield began their collaboration with "For the Love of God" (1990). Here they've joined forces and invited a number of spiritually inclined (and quite a few best-selling) authors to contribute essays about the nourishment of the soul. In their introduction, Carlson and Shield discuss the fact that everyone craves spiritual sustenance no matter what their religious orientation may be. Indeed, the very concept of soul means different things to different people, and this diversity is reflected in the volume's assortment of viewpoints and experiences. Authors such as Lynn Andrews, Wayne Dyer, Robert Fulghum, Bernie Siegel, Marianne Williamson, and Ram Dass offer suggestions and observations about nourishing the soul through meditation, prayer, and the contemplation of nature. Many writers offer glimpses into their own daily routines and explain, briefly, how they manage to maintain an enthusiasm for life and a vital sense of that mysterious, timeless part of ourselves that we call the soul.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780446523998
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 1/15/2001
  • Pages: 225
  • Product dimensions: 5.08 (w) x 7.72 (h) x 0.86 (d)

Read an Excerpt




December 5, 1955, was one of the memorable and inspiring days of my life. History records this day as the beginning of the modern Civil Rights Movement that transformed America and influenced freedom revolutions around the world.

I had been arrested four days earlier, on December 1, in my hometown of Montgomery, Alabama, for refusing to get up and give my seat on a city bus to a white man, which was a much-resented customary practice at the time. Local black community leaders, the Reverend E. D. Nixon and attorney Fred Gray, asked me if I would be willing to make a test case out of my arrest, with the goal of ending segregation on Montgomery's buses, and I agreed to cooperate with them.

Mrs. Joanne Robinson and other local black women leaders of the Women's Political Council of our community met on the evening of my arrest and decided to call a boycott to begin on December 5, the day of my trial. I was found guilty of violating a segregation statute and given a suspended sentence, with a ten-dollar fine plus four dollars in court costs. This was in keeping with our legal strategy, so we could appeal and challenge the segregation law in a higher court.

A group of ministers met later in the afternoon of December 5 and formed a new organization, the Montgomery Improvement Association. An open meeting of the black community was called for that evening at the Holt Street Baptist Church. The ministers elected a young minister named Martin Luther King, Jr., whom I had met briefly a few months before, to serve as its first president and spokesman. Dr. King was chosen in part because he was relatively new to the community and so did not have any enemies. Also Dr. King had made a strong impression on Rufus Lewis, an influential member of our community who attended Dr. King's Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. I had met Dr. King's wife, Coretta, and had attended concerts where she sang, but I didn't know she was his wife at the time.

By the time I arrived at the meeting, the church was so filled up that a crowd of hundreds spilled out into the street, and speakers had to be set up outside to accommodate everyone. The excitement around the church was electrifying, and I remember having a sense that something powerful was being born. I squeezed my way through the crowd to my seat on the platform, where a lively discussion about the boycott strategy was underway.

Then Dr. King was introduced to the audience and began to speak in the rich, poised baritone and learned eloquence that distinguished even this debut speech of his career as a civil rights leader. Later Dr. King would write that he normally took fifteen hours to prepare his sermons, but because of the hectic events of the day, he'd had only twenty minutes to prepare for "the most decisive speech of my life." He spent five minutes of his time worrying about it, and then wisely prayed to God for guidance.

His prayer must have been heard, because on that historic night, despite all of the pressure on him, Dr. King showed no trace of doubt or hesitancy. He spoke like a seasoned preacher and was frequently interrupted throughout his remarks by an energetic chorus of "Amen," "That's right," "Keep talkin'," and "Yes, Lord."

Dr. King recounted the abuses Montgomery's black citizens had experienced leading up to the boycott. He spoke about what had happened to me and why we must win this struggle. He told the crowd that our boycott was a patriotic protest, very much in the tradition of American democracy. He underscored the critical importance of honoring the principles of nonviolence and rooting our protest in the teachings of Jesus Christ, alongside our unshakable determination to win the boycott.

And then, as he concluded, he said the words that I will never forget, the prophetic words that, for me, still define the character of our nonviolent freedom movement: "When the history books are written in the future, somebody will have to say, 'There lived a race of people, a black people, fleecy locks and black complexion, a people who had the moral courage to stand up for their rights. And thereby they injected a new meaning into the veins of history and of civilization.'"

Amid the thundering applause that met the conclusion of Dr. King's speech on that night, there was a sense that this speech had launched a brave new era. Dr. King had spelled it out with clarity and eloquence: This movement was not just about desegregating the buses, or even just the mistreatment of our people in Montgomery. This movement was about slaking the centuries-old thirst of a long-suffering people for freedom, dignity, and human rights. It was time to drink at the well.

In these pages we celebrate the wonderful oratory of one of America's greatest leaders. But let us remember that what gave his speeches and sermons legitimacy was that Dr. King didn't just talk the talk; he walked the walk from Montgomery to Memphis, enduring jails, beatings, abuse, threats, the bombing of his home, and the highest sacrifice a person can make for a righteous cause.

When I entered the courtroom that morning, I heard one of our supporters chanting, "They messed with the wrong one now." But when I headed home after Dr. King's speech I knew that we had found the right one to articulate our protest. As the weeks and months wore on, it became clear to me that we had found our Moses, and he would surely lead us to the promised land of liberty and justice for all.

ROSA LOUISE PARKS was a civil rights activist and local NAACP official in Montgomery, Alabama, for over a decade before her refusal to abide by segregated bus-seating practices on December 1, 1955, sparked the successful Montgomery bus boycott. Parks, facing the loss of her job and other forms of intimidation, left Montgomery for Detroit, Michigan, where she continued her political work and cofounded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development.

Copyright (c) 2001 by The Heirs to the Estate of

Martin Luther King, Jr. All rights reserved.

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Table of Contents

Introduction vii
Address to the First Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) Mass Meeting 1
The Birth of a New Nation 13
Give Us the Ballot 43
Address at the Freedom Rally in Cobo Hall 57
I Have a Dream 75
Eulogy for the Young Victims of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church Bombing 89
Acceptance Address for the Nobel Peace Prize 101
Address at the Conclusion of the Selma to Montgomery March 111
Beyond Vietnam 133
Where Do We Go from Here? 165
I've Been to the Mountaintop 201
Acknowledgments 224
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Customer Reviews

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( 10 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 3, 2011

    This is definitely a book that you should check out.

    A Call to Conscience is a book made up of all spectacular speeches and sermons given by Dr. Martin Luther King complied all into one book. The speeches include " Address to the First Montgomery Improvement Association(MIA) Mass Meeting, "The Birth of a New Nation", "Give us the Ballot", I Have a Dream", "I've Been to the Mountaintop," and many others. In these many speeches, Martin Luther King paints a very vivid picture for how dark and twisted the time period in which he lived in, really was. He showed the true horrors of what life has been for black in the United States during the 1950's and 60's, and explained their everyday struggle to gain civil rights and to be treated like a human.

    In his first speech at the (MIA) Mass Meeting, he mentions, "I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.... I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down, men other-centered can build up.... I still believe that we shall overcome." In the novel, Dr. King tries to explain to the African American community that they should fight love with hate.

    Throughout the novel, Dr. King tries to get them, not to fight against each other in anger of their situation, but unite them in order that they can fight the white men peace. He also referred to the biblical occurrence of the Israelites being in Egypt, and how they had to join together and break free from the Egyptians, and by the help from God, they passed through the Red Sea and were taken through the wilderness, into the Promised Land. He likened this to the situation of the African American community in their time, facing oppression, racism, just like the Israelites when they were held as slaves in Egypt. He also referred to the African American community as God's chosen race.

    In Martin Luther King's last speech, "I've Been to the Mountaintop", he mentioned, "if I were standing at the beginning of time, with the possibility of taking a kind of general and panoramic view of the whole of human history up to now, and the Almighty said to me, "Martin Luther King, which age would you like to live in?" I would take my mental flight by Egypt and I would watch God's children in their magnificent trek from the dark dungeons of Egypt through, or rather across the Red Sea, through the wilderness on toward the Promised Land. And in spite of its magnificence, I wouldn't stop there." Dr. King continued on to say "I call upon you to take your money out of the banks downtown and deposit your money in Tri-State Bank. We want a "bank-in" movement in Memphis. Go by the savings and loan association. I'm not asking you something that we don't do ourselves at SCLC. Judge Hooks and others will tell you that we have an account here in the savings and loan association from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. We are telling you to follow what we are doing. Put your money there. You have six or seven black insurance companies here in the city of Memphis. Take out your insurance there." (A Call to Conscience, 216) See, he knew how to attack the problem, without using violence and hatred. He truly proved to be a great leader for not only his community of African Americans but for whites. All in all this was a great book!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2003


    I am exicted to own this collection of speeches by one of the greatest Americans. However, I was very irritated to discover that THE CD'S WILL NOT PLAY ON EITHER OF MY COMPUTERS. They play fine on a regular CD player. This information should be known in advance of purchase. I do not regret the purchase IN SPITE OF THE MAJOR INCONVENIENCE of not being able to listen in my office.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Still inspiring

    Stanford University Professor Clayborne Carson compiles some of the great speeches by Dr. King that stirred the world into positive social activity. Most of the entries are famous such as the ¿I Have A dream¿, a personal favorite not just solely because of the moving address. I shared a row in coach on a plane from Hartsfield to Reagan with Congressman Lewis who still has butterflies from that landmark moment in history any time he flies into DC. The introductions to each oration provide additional perspectives on eleven of the ¿landmark speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.¿. This is a wonderful collection that takes the reader back to a time of turmoil in which a prophet arose to awaken a generation into believing not just dreaming that justice and equality needs to be the American way. <P>Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2013

    POWERFUL!!!!!!' POWERFUL!!!!!!!!!!!:)

    I am amazed at how this man could speak!!!He moves me so much that I am speechless when I read what he has written!!!!!!!! By: a fifth grader . I'm not kidding. I'm 10

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2011

    I memerized the speach my self i n 5th grade

    during my 4th grade years and 5th grade years i love this speach an i still remember it like it was yesterday my kids aree also saying the speach later to day :)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2004

    Great, Just Great

    This book is full of truths that we still need to hear today. A must read!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2002

    A necessary addition to any personal library

    I don't own many non-fictional books, but this one I had to get. It's the only book I own that's a hardcover, but it was worth every penny. I came across it by pure accident in the library while searching for images on the Civil Rights movement and ended up reading it for a couple of hours. I always knew that Dr. King was (historically)a great speaker, but I had no idea how great he really was until I picked up this book and have gained more respect for him. I suggest anyone at least read the book once, especially if they're in a down time in their life.

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    Posted May 6, 2011

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    Posted October 12, 2010

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    Posted May 28, 2011

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