One of the Washington Post's ten best books of 2023 | One of The New Yorker's essential reads of 2023 | A New York Times bestseller and notable book of 2023
A Washington Post and National Indie Bestseller | Obama Summer Reading List Pick | One of Publishers Weekly's best nonfiction books of 2023 | One of Smithsonian magazine's ten best books of 2023
“Supple, penetrating, heartstring-pulling and compulsively readable . . . Eig’s book is worthy of its subject.” —Dwight Garner, The New York Times (Editors’ Choice)
“[King is] infused with the narrative energy of a thriller . . . The most compelling account of King’s life in a generation.” —Mark Whitaker, The Washington Post
“No book could be more timely than Jonathan Eig’s sweeping and majestic new King . . . Eig has created 2023′s most vital tome.” —Will Bunch, The Philadelphia Inquirer
Hailed by The New York Times as “the new definitive biography,” King mixes revelatory new research with accessible storytelling to offer an MLK for our times.
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.
Includes 8 pages of black-and-white photographs
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
In this fascinating biography, historian Jonathan Eig examines Martin Luther King Jr. as both a human being and a transformational leader. Using newly declassified FBI files and hundreds of new interviews, Eig presents a detailed and unflinching account of King’s complexities, showing him to be more than just an inspiring orator and spiritual leader. By exploring King’s foibles and struggles, Eig—who wrote the bestseller Ali: A Life—shows us a relatable, flawed man who wrestled with his own mistakes. We also get to learn about King’s most significant relationships and about the federal government’s secret and truly contemptible efforts to discredit him. King: A Life goes deep, starting with the civil rights icon’s family roots in Reconstruction-era Georgia and mapping all the way to his 1968 assassination. At once informative and captivating, it’s a startling new portrait of an American legend.
Martin Luther King Jr. went beyond meek nonviolence into far-reaching radicalism, according to this sweeping biography. Eig (Ali: A Life) gives a rousing recap of King's triumphs as a civil rights leader—the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott, his "I Have a Dream" speech at the 1963 march on Washington, the 1965 procession from Selma to Montgomery, Ala.—as well as his despondency later in the 1960s as his anti-poverty campaigns struggled and Black energies drifted from nonviolent protest toward armed militance and "Black power." Contesting accusations by Malcolm X and others that King was an "Uncle Tom," Eig casts him as a revolutionary who reshaped the South with his integrationism, became an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War despite losing political support and drawing the ire of the FBI, and developed a deep critique of systemic racism and economic inequality that called for reparations for slavery and a guaranteed minimum income. King is no saint in this complex, nuanced portrait—his plagiarism and womanizing are probed in detail—but Eig's evocative prose ably conveys his bravery, charisma, and spell-binding oratory (rallying the Montgomery boycotters, "he called out in his deep, throbbing voice, and the people responded, the noise of the crowd rolling and pounding in waves that shook the building as he built to a climax"). It's an enthralling reappraisal that confirms King's relevance to today's debates over racial justice.
Thoroughly researched and well chronicled. I only wish he’d unpacked a little more of his own analysis of the extraordinary life of MLK. A great read