"This book is the best treatment of Martin Luther King's faith that I have seen, and an incredibly thorough exploration of the ways faith was fundamentally central to Dr. King's vision, action, and perspective on mission and civil rights. In this book we see the full extent of what it means to form a spiritual commitment to justice, activism, and equality, and are reminded of what we are called to do for others, our society, and ourselves. This edition presents a strikingly nuanced and human vision of the civil rights leader and reverend we are all familiar with."
-Jim Wallis, New York Times bestselling author of America's Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America, president of Sojourners, and editor-in-chief of Sojourners magazine
In this intimate portrait of the Civil Rights Movement and its greatest leader, historian Stewart Burns weaves the spiritual and political dimensions of Dr. King's life and the movement for freedom into a single garment. The spiritual and political dimensions illuminate each other. Told with a vivid narrative, mining unmined sources, To the Mountaintop shows how his Christian faith and his self-conception as chosen but unworthy messiah, facing death daily, became his guiding forces in his life and leadership.
Praise for the first edition:
"Thoroughly researched and gracefully written, To the Mountaintop is a brilliant interpretation of Martin Luther King Jr.'s vocation to save America. Anyone who wishes to understand King and the civil rights movement cannot afford to miss this book." Rev. Dr. James H. Cone, Union Theological Seminary, founder of Black liberation theology, author of God of the Oppressed and Martin and Malcolm and America
"For those of us who knew Martin Luther King Jr. and were involved in the Southern movement, but also for all Americans, Stewart Burns brings wonderfully alive both the man himself and those exciting, inspiring times." Howard Zinn, activist historian, author, A People's History of the United States
Highly regarded historian of the Black freedom movement, author or editor of eight books, Professor Burns is renowned for his 2004 biography of Dr. King, To the Mountaintop (HarperCollins), winner of the prestigious Wilbur Award for conveying religious ideas to secular readers. Clergy and lay people of various faiths praised his lucid portrayal of King's spiritual journey and its impact on his leadership in civil rights, human rights, and world peace. The new edition, a penetrating spiritual biography, is enriched by twelve years of the author's further research and theological exploration.
|Product dimensions:||6.14(w) x 9.21(h) x 1.30(d)|
Read an Excerpt
To the Mountaintop
Martin Luther King Jr.'s Sacred Mission to Save America: 1955-1968
First Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama
January 30, 1956
"Onward Christian soldiers," the spirited assembly belted out, "marching as to war." The hymn had been written to inspire Union forces during the Civil War. Prayer followed, then another hymn, "Plant My Feet on Higher Ground." A short, somber minister rose to the pulpit for that evening's pep talk.
"Some of our good white citizens told me today that the relationships between white and colored used to be good," he said softly, "that the whites have never let us down and that the outsiders came in and upset this relationship. But I want you to know," his voice building volume, "that if M. L. King had never been born, this movement would have taken place. I just happened to be here.
"There comes a time," his words now a resonating shout, "when time itself is ready for change. That time has come in Montgomery and I had nothing to do with it.
"Our opponents -- I hate to think of our governmental officers as opponents, but they are -- have tried all sorts of things to break us, but we still hold steadfast. Their first strategy was to negotiate into a compromise and that failed. Secondly, they tried to conquer by dividing and that failed. Now they are trying to intimidate us by a get-tough policy and that's going to fail too, because a man's language is courage when his back is against the wall." The assembly erupted in thunderclaps.
"When we are right, we don't mind going to jail!" More ear-splitting applause. "If all I have to pay is going to jail a few times and getting about twenty threatening phone calls a day, I think that is a very small price to pay for what we are fighting for. We are a chain. We are linked together, and I cannot be what I ought to be unless you are what you ought to be." More thunderous clapping as he sat down.
Following him at the pulpit was Solomon S. Seay, former head of the national African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church.
"You know," Rev. Seay started out, "if a man doesn't want to sit besides me because I'm dirty, that's my fault. If he doesn't want to sit besides me because I'm loud, that's my fault too, but if he doesn't want to sit besides me because I'm black, that's not my fault because God made me black and my white brother is discriminating against God and His will. But even though they are, we must love them. We must love Mr. Sellers and Mr. Gayle for God said that we must love our enemies as ourselves. Let's not hate them, for with love in our hearts and God on our side, there are no forces in hell or on earth that can mow us down.
"I had a book which was so interesting," he continued, "that I gave it to the city officials to read. It's a book on great powers, the stories of men who ruled and conquered by force only to lose. Men like Alexander the Great, Napoleon and Hitler were discussed, men who lived by the sword. Their empires are no longer, but have perished.
"But there was a man who taught that love and faith could move mountains and more mountains. And unto this day that empire which was built by a man who said while dying on the cross, 'Forgive them O Lord, for they know not what they do.' That is the empire of Jesus Christ! He was asking forgiveness for the men who crucified him, drove nails through his hands and put thorns on his head. So we forgive Sellers and Gayle, but we do not give up."
Back at the King parsonage on South Jackson Street, a small one-story clapboard house, Coretta Scott King was watching television, still a novelty, in the front parlor, a church friend keeping her company. She heard the thud of something landing on the concrete porch and foot-steps scurrying away. Alert to what it might be, she grabbed her friend and they dashed to the back of the house, where tiny, two-month-old Yolanda was sleeping in her crib. Then came the explosion, the loudest noise she had ever heard. She held her screaming friend. The baby cried. The dynamite sticks had blown a hole in the concrete floor, wrecked porch columns and the front wall, and smashed several windows. It would have injured anyone sitting in the parlor. It would likely have killed Coretta King had she looked out the window to investigate the thud.
Over at First Baptist on the other side of the statehouse, Rev. King was supervising the collection. A member of his church walked briskly down the aisle and whispered to Rev. Ralph Abernathy, King's closest friend, whose church this was. Out of the corner of his eye King saw ministers conferring urgently. Agitated, he turned to Abernathy and asked what the hell was going on.
"Your house has been bombed."
He asked about his wife and baby.
"We are checking on that now."
He returned to the pulpit, told the people what happened. Several shouted out in shock and alarm. A few women screamed. King urged calm, which he somehow embodied, advising them to go home directly and hold to nonviolent principles.
"Let us keep moving," he said firmly but wearily, "with the faith that what we are doing is right, and with the even greater faith that God is with us in the struggle."
Staring straight ahead, he marched out of the church and drove home. The parsonage was surrounded by a furious sea of several hundred black people, who "came to do battle," Coretta King recalled. New waves were arriving every minute. Densely packed, they closed in around the house ...To the Mountaintop
Martin Luther King Jr.'s Sacred Mission to Save America: 1955-1968. Copyright © by Stewart Burns. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Table of Contents
|Book 1||A Mighty Stream (1955-1957)||1|
|Book 2||Middle Passage (1963-1966)||157|
|Book 3||Crossing to Jerusalem (1967-1968)||295|
|Conclusion: Building the Beloved Community||457|