BIOGRAPHY

King: A Life

Farrar May 2023. 688p. ISBN 9780374279295. $35. BIOG
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Award-winning biographer and journalist Eig (Ali: A Life) turns his lens on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929–68). Mining a trove of materials—many only recently available—augmented with voluminous archival work and hundreds of interviews for personal insights, Eig advances the already appreciable quantity of first-rate biographies and intensive scholarship on King. He also recovers the man, foibles and all, from the too often hollowed-out, sainted symbol that competing ideologies have sanitized for national observance. His 45 engrossing chapters depict King from his enslaved family’s history in antebellum Georgia, his stern father’s high expectations, and his soothing mother’s calm warmth, through his April 1968 assassination in Memphis. The ambitious, anxious, contemplative, depressed, fun-loving, uncertain private King gets equal attention to the determined, eloquent, fearless public person in the spotlight. From his decrying state-sanctioned and vigilante violence to his stance against the U.S. war in Vietnam and his Poor People’s Campaign, Eig notes it all and paints a thorough picture of King.

CORRECTION: This review originally misspelled the author’s first name. LJ regrets the error.

VERDICT A must for readers interested in moving beyond clichéd catchphrases to see a more complete and complex King, the context of his charisma, and the creation and content of his character.
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