Life and Death of Martin Luther King, Jr.


The Lift and Death of Martin Luther King, Jr.

On April 4, 1968, a shot rang out in Memphis, Tennessee, killing the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The leader of the civil rights movement was dead, felled by an assassin's bullet. Who was Martin Luther King, and why do we remember him? Award-winning author James Haskins chronicles Dr. King's life and the circumstances surrounding his death. With an afterword.

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The Lift and Death of Martin Luther King, Jr.

On April 4, 1968, a shot rang out in Memphis, Tennessee, killing the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The leader of the civil rights movement was dead, felled by an assassin's bullet. Who was Martin Luther King, and why do we remember him? Award-winning author James Haskins chronicles Dr. King's life and the circumstances surrounding his death. With an afterword.

A biography of a man who dedicated his life to the cause of civil rights, which also reexamines unanswered questions concerning his assassination.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688116903
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/28/1992
  • Edition description: 1st Beech Tree ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 192
  • Age range: 11 years
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 7.87 (h) x 0.38 (d)

Meet the Author

James Haskins is the author of more than a hundred books for both adults and children, including The Cotton Club, which inspired the motion picture of the same name, and The Story of Stevie Wonder, which won the Coretta Scott King Award. He was honored with the Washington Post/Children's Book Guild Award for his body of work, and his books Black Music in America, and The March on Washington both won the Carter G. Woodson Award. Mr. Haskins passed away in 2005.

In His Own Words...

"I was born in Dentopolis, Alabama and spent my childhood in a household with lots of children, a household where I felt a great need for privacy. One of the places I found privacy was in books. I could be anywhere at all, but if I was reading it book I was by in myself. Sometimes it was hard for me to get books. In the 1950s, when I was a child, the South was rigidly segregated. The Demopolis Public library was for whites; I black child could not go there. My mother arranged for a white friend to get books from the library for me. Many years later, I returned to Demopolis and gave some of the books I had written to the library I could never enter as a child. Some Years after that, I was invited to give an important speech it that same library.

"I attended high school in Boston, Massachuetts, and college in a variety of places, the first of which was Alabama State University in Montgomery. It Was the time of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which began after a black woman named osa Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a city bus to a white man. Inspired by her action and led by a young minister Martin Luther King, Jr., black people boycotted the buses for more than a year until the United States Supreme Court ruled that segregation on public buses was unconstitutional. I helped hand out leaflets urging black people to stay off the buses and Was expelled front the college for doing so. Georgetown University In Washington, D.C., then offered me a scholarship, and I enrolled there.

"After graduating from college, I moved to New York, where I sold newspaper advertising space and worked as a stock trader on Wall Street before I decided to become a teacher. I taught music and special education classes in Harlem; My first book, Diary Of a Schoolteacher, was a result of my experiences.

"It was the 1960s, and college and high school Students were demonstrating against the war in Vietnam and for the civil rights of black people. My students were aware of those events and wanted to know more about them. But there were no books written on their level. So I started writing books for young people about the various movements—antiwar, civil rights, black power. After that I began writing biographies of black people, because young people black and white—like to read about how successful people grew up and overcame the barriers of poverty and racial discrinination.

"Since the early 1970s, I have taught on the collage level, and I have continued to write books. I have published more than 125 on many subjects for children, young adults, and adults. In 1994, the Washington Post Children's Book Guild honored me for my body of work in nonfiction for children.

"I have learned a lot from writing books. I have also met many important people, including Mrs. Rosa Parks herself, because I helped her write her autobiographies for young adults, Rosa Park: My Story; and for children, I Am Rosa Parks. When I think about that, I am amazed that the woman who was so important to my experiences as a young college student—not to mention the whole civil rights movement—now my friend.

"Books were once—and still are—a way to find my own private world. But they have also introduced me to a world far larger than I would otherwise have experienced. I love books, and I feel very fortunate to have been able to share this love With so many People."

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Early Years

Atlanta, Georgia, is a large sprawling city at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Today it is a heavily industrial and cosmopolitan center, known as the unofficial capital of the South, and it is one of the best southern cities for blacks to live in. But back in the late 1920's, before World War II and the growth of industrialization, Atlanta was highly segregated, and for the mass of its black population it wasn't a much better place to live than any other area of the Jim Crow South.

There was a small middle-class black population in Atlanta that avoided some of the more grinding circumstances of black southern life. They were teachers, ministers, doctors. Proud and dignified, they instilled these feelings in their children and promoted education as the means to achieve success. So long as they did not have to go downtown, where they were insulted on the streets and expected to shop in the back of the store and denied the privilege of drinking at soda fountains or eating at lunch counters, they were able to live in comparative dignity in their quiet, well-kept neighborhoods.

One such neighborhood was located in the vicinity of Auburn Avenue in Atlanta, up the hill from a poor black ghetto area. Here the Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr., and his wife Alberta lived in a two-story gingerbread-style house not far from Ebenezer Baptist Church where the Reverend King was pastor. They were highly regarded in the black community, asthe families of ministers tradi-tionally were, and their roots were deep within it. Reverend Kings father-in-law, Arthur Daniel Williams,had been, pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church for thirty-seven years before him. Mrs. King was a schoolteacher, anotherprofession respected among blacks and which blacks were allowed to pursue. Their children would have many advantages the children of poor black Atlantans did nothave.

Christine was their first child. A year later their first son was born on January 15, 1929. He was christened Michael, but shortly thereafter it was decided that he should be named after his father and he was renamed Martin Luther King, Jr. Two years later Martin and Christine had a younger brother, Arthur Daniel, who very soon was called simply "A.D."

The King children had happy, secure first years. Their parents were strict but loving; they emphasized pride and dignity and learning. The house on Auburn Avenue was filled with books. The Reverend King considered his books among his most prized possessions, and well he might have, for he had worked hard to acquire the knowledge that was in them. Born on a farm about twenty miles outside of Atlanta, he had come to the city at the age of fifteen and worked in the freight yards by day while going to school at night. Because of his need to work and the intermittent education he had received on the farm, it took him eleven years to finish high school. He then enrolled in Atlanta's black Morehouse College and five years later he was ordained as a Baptist minister. He had worked hard to get where he was, and he was proud of what he had achieved. He believed he was as good as any other man, black or white, and so he refused to grin and shuffle in the presence of whites, or to keep his head bowed when walking past them to avoid being accused of looking where he shouldn't. In the South in those days such a man was called an "uppity nigger," one who did not know his proper place. Traditionally, uppity niggers did not live long in the South -- they were lynched, or their homes were burned down, or they were arrested and jailed. Mrs. King lived in fear that her husband's pride would get him into trouble, but the Reverend King would remind her that one should never fear to do what was right.

Martin, Jr., could not have had a better example of dignity than his father. From his earliest memory, his father's simple statement impressed itself on him. "You are as good as anybody else," the Reverend King would say, and he would look at his son in such a piercing manner that the words would bore into young Martin's brain. He knew them by heart long before he knew what they meant, and he saw his father put those words into action before he understood fully that they referred primarily to the fact that the Kings were black and that being black was a liability in American, particularly southern American, society.

Often when the Reverend King went to downtown Atlanta, he would take one of, his children with him. It was necessary for them to learn that there was a world outside their secure neighborhood on Auburn Avenue -- a harsh, cruel, segregated world -- and it was important that they experience that world in the company of a man whom they trusted and who refused to submit to the indignities whites tried to foist on blacks. When the Reverend King went to downtown Atlanta, he drove his own car, which was out of the ordinary because most black Atlantans rode the city buses. The sight of a black driving a car in the downtown section often signaled "uppity" to white Atlanta policemen, who would stop the driver on some pretext or other. Martin was with his father once when this happened. "Listen boy -- " the policeman began. The Reverend King interrupted him. "That," he said, pointing to his small son, "is a boy. I am a man."

In those days, wherever a store's facilities allowed, stores were divided into sections for whites and blacks, Blacks were supposed to shop in the back of the store, whites in the front.

The Life and Death of Martin Luther King, Jr.. Copyright © by James Haskins. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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