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King A Life by Jonathan Eig Book Review {living outside the stacks} Follow @DaenelT on Instagram #BookReview #Biography #AfricanAmericanHistory #AmericanHistory #CivilRightsMovement #MartinLutherKingJR

Many years ago, I taught American History I and II. Most of my students were freshmen, who were taking the courses to fulfill a requirement. Because I knew they weren’t particularly interested in history, I tried to make the class interesting for them, while ensuring that they walked away from the class with a basic knowledge of the who, what, where…

One of the things I enjoyed most {and, judging from the student evaluations, so did my students} was assigning supplemental resources to guide our discussions. Sometimes those resources were songs for us to analyze, speeches, diary entries, or books.

Without a shadow of a doubt, I would use portions of this book for discussion purposes.


Title: King: A Life

Author: Jonathan Eig

Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

Publication Date: 16 May 2023

Genre: Biography

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 688

ABOUT THE BOOK (from the book)

Vividly written and exhaustively researched, Jonathan Eig’s King: A Life is the first major biography in decades of the civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr.―and the first to include recently declassified FBI files. In this revelatory new portrait of the preacher and activist who shook the world, the bestselling biographer gives us an intimate view of the courageous and often emotionally troubled human being who demanded peaceful protest for his movement but was rarely at peace with himself. He casts fresh light on the King family’s origins as well as MLK’s complex relationships with his wife, father, and fellow activists. King reveals a minister wrestling with his own human frailties and dark moods, a citizen hunted by his own government, and a man determined to fight for justice even if it proved to be a fight to the death. As he follows MLK from the classroom to the pulpit to the streets of Birmingham, Selma, and Memphis, Eig dramatically re-creates the journey of a man who recast American race relations and became our only modern-day founding father―as well as the nation’s most mourned martyr.

In this landmark biography, Eig gives us an MLK for our times: a deep thinker, a brilliant strategist, and a committed radical who led one of history’s greatest movements, and whose demands for racial and economic justice remain as urgent today as they were in his lifetime.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from his website)

Jonathan Eig is the author of six books, including three New York Times best sellers.

Learn more about him here. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.



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Do not let the size of this book intimidate you. This is one of the most accessible books of this genre that I’ve read in a long time. Eig has written a biography that reads very much like a conversation between friends. While tightly written and meticulously researched {and documented}, the writing flows so evenly that I found myself riding an emotional roller coaster.

Through the pages of this book, Martin Luther King, Jr. becomes more than “the man with a dream” who was martyred for the movement, he becomes a flesh and blood individual who struggled with self-doubt and mental health issues, intensified by the singular focus of J. Edgar Hoover’s need to bring him to heel. I knew the FBI had targeted him, but I had no idea of the extent to which they went to drive him to madness. Hoover’s FBI was not going to be content with MLK walking away from the Civil Rights Movement, they wanted him totally and utterly destroyed.

Eig delves into King’s infidelity, but not in a gossipy manner. It’s presented as a matter of fact. A fact that Coretta Scott King denied. Even when she was presented with audiotapes.

Speaking of Coretta Scott King, she was a woman who was very much focused on the mission. In fact, I’d say she was married more to the Movement than to the man. When she married MLK, she knew her role and she did it well. I wonder, though, how much more she would’ve been able to contribute had King {and the other men of the movement} not had such condescending views of women.

My view of King didn’t change from reading this book. If anything, I’d say it made me a little sad because this man, who gave so much of himself to the cause, has been reduced to a speech that narrows the magnitude of who he was. He spoke out against so many things – militarism and materialism to name a few. And there’s the slow turn towards the Black Power Movement that is wholly ignored in discussions surrounding him and his beliefs.

Again, I can’t recommend this book highly enough to those who are curious about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement {or the women who supported the men}.

King A Life by Jonathan Eig Book Review {living outside the stacks} Follow @DaenelT on Instagram #BookReview #Biography #AfricanAmericanHistory #AmericanHistory #CivilRightsMovement #MartinLutherKingJR

A Final Note

I read this as my first Instagram Buddy Read and, y’all, I cannot stress how much I enjoyed this read along. Having a group of people of diverse ages, experiences, and knowledge bases discussing the same book made it so much more interesting. Some of the people in the group have a background in Black lit, while others are historians, so they brought a wealth of knowledge to the discussions that I would have missed out on had it been a solo read. If you have the opportunity to read this as part of a book discussion group, do yourself a favor and do it. Furthermore, I think having accountability partners will keep you on track.

Trigger Warnings

Sex, Violence, Murder, Prejudice, Racism


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King A Life by Jonathan Eig Book Review {living outside the stacks} Follow @DaenelT on Instagram #BookReview #Biography #AfricanAmericanHistory #AmericanHistory #CivilRightsMovement #MartinLutherKingJR

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