Knowledge is power, and I gain my knowledge by reading as many books as I can. While I love a bit of fiction (and, indeed, there is a lot of learning which can be gained from it), I make it my business to read more factual books from time to time.
Wanting to be less ignorant about history, I recently picked up Martin Luther King, Jr. by Marshall Frady. Of course, I knew who Martin Luther King, Jr. was, but I felt I didn’t know enough about such a monumental man.
I read a review on Goodreads by someone who stated that this book made them like King less; and I can understand where they are coming from. Frady lays out an honest account of King’s life, which means showcasing the bad as well as the good. Therefore, what the reader gets is a celebratory account of successes such as those in Birmingham and Selma, but also details of sordid affairs and many instances of plagiarism. Needless to say, this information allows cracks to form in one’s ideal of King. However, what the reader also gets is a more relatable person, the story of a person who did wonderful things, but also bore struggles and failure.
In terms of the history of the time, I felt I learned a lot, and not just about King. It was interesting for me to see how Malcolm X, John F. Kennedy and J. Edgar Hoover slotted into this pocket of the past. This book was well-laid out enough to allow me to compare the time of the Civil Rights Movement to today. It was wonderful to see how far things have progressed in what is actually very little time, but rather saddening to see how far human mentality still has to come.
One thing that I didn’t like about this book was the writing style. At the beginning, I felt like I would never finish it, but eventually the story picked up pace. I can pinpoint this problem exactly to the tone of the writer, especially his use of long, rather pretentious, words. I feel I spent more time trying to figure out their meaning and context than anything else.
Overall, I certainly learned a lot from this book and I would recommend it to anyone looking for an overview of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life. However, an overview is exactly what this book is and anyone looking for more in-depth learning should be prepared for further reading.