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Learn the key ideas of the book by Martin Luther King Jr. , Clayborne Carson

The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Learning non-violence from one of humanity's masters

Several years after her husband's death, Coretta Scott King asked Professor Clayborne Carson to compile a collection of Martin Luther's writings. The result is Martin Luther King Jr. 's Autobiography, a book full of stories, reflections, and anecdotes, that were collected posthumously, but which were all penned by the greatest civil rights activist of all time. With this book, we retrace King's life: childhood, studies, family, campaigns - the ups and downs of a short life, but one lived to the fullest. More importantly, we have the honour of reading the words of a man who has inspired millions of people with his dream, who preached love for their neighbour, and advocated non-violent resistance as the most powerful weapon that people can use in their quest for respect, fairness, and justice.

The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.
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The happy early years: Atlanta, the loving influence of family, and new discoveries at college

Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) was born on January 15th, 1929, shortly before the outbreak of the Great Depression - a period of economic hardship that probably had an influence on the anti-capitalist sentiments that he would go on to develop later in life.

He lived a peaceful and healthy childhood, with two parents that he considered to be wonderful: Martin Luther believed in the love of God throughout his entire life, due to the fact that he grew up in a family where love was never in short supply. Martin Luther's mother, Alberta Williams King, was a shy woman, but nevertheless, warm, and friendly. It was through her influence thatMLK and his brothers learned self-respect, and that racial segregation had nothing to do with the natural order, but was merely a social condition that should never make them feel inferior. His father, Martin Luther King Senior, was a strong, courageous, and self-confident person, and was considered by his son to be a man of integrity, who was honest, and strongly attached to his moral and ethical principles. He was the pastor at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, which is where Martin Luther joined the religious community from an early age.

Martin Luther vividly remembers an episode that stands out in his peaceful childhood, which he experienced at the age of six: a friend of his, who was white, was one day forbidden by his father to play with Martin. For the first time in his life, MLK was confronted with the existence of a racial problem, and was shocked. As he grew up, he continued to develop a growing resentment towards segregation, considering it to be a real injustice: in Atlanta, black people were not allowed to go to the swimming pool or public park, and were forced to attend different schools and cinemas from the white population. Not to mention the buses: Martin Luther remembers a trip during which he was forced to remain standing for more than 140 kilometres because he was not permitted to sit in the seats reserved for white people. He was not only outraged by segregation itself, but also by the barbaric and oppressive acts that often derived from it, as well as by the fact that racial injustice also brought economic injustice, resulting in poverty and instability. 

At the age of 15, MLK went to Morehouse College: there was a sense of freedom in the air at this place, and it is where he became involved in his first discussions on the question of race. It was here that he came into contact with the concept of nonviolent resistance for the first time, after reading Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau. Day after day, Martin Luther reflected on a new idea: non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as cooperation with good; evil must be resisted, therefore no person with a sense of morality can ever accept injustice. In college, he began to collaborate with some civil rights organisations and, in the meantime, started thinking about his future: he had always felt the need to work in the service of others, but was unsure in what capacity. After much doubt over whether to pursue a career as a doctor or a lawyer, he finally found inspiration in the high esteem he felt for his father, and decided to enter the seminary.


The key ideas of "The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr."

The happy early years: Atlanta, the loving influence of family, and new discoveries at college
From the seminary, to university, and then life's greatest inspiration: Mahatma Gandhi
The beginning of it all: Rosa Parks unleashes the Montgomery Movement
New organisations, new challenges to face: the struggle for civil rights expands
Inspiration outside the United States: the birth of Ghana, the pilgrimage to India
Protests ramp up across the South, and the need for support from above
From Albany to Birmingham, Southern civil rights struggles intensify
Letter from Birmingham Jail: a heartfelt call for non-violence and justice
The March on Washington: a big dream that turned into disappointment
St. Augustine, Selma, Watts: the struggle for civil rights must go on
The Chicago Campaign: from the depths of despair to success
Martin Luther King reflects on the nuances of the slogan "Black Power": non-violence continues to be the priority
From the top of the mountain to depths of the valley: the Nobel Prize, and his last day alive
Take-home message

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