The Word of the Lord Is Upon Me: The Righteous Performance of Martin Luther King, Jr.

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9780674046986: The Word of the Lord Is Upon Me: The Righteous Performance of Martin Luther King, Jr.
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“You don’t know me,” Martin Luther King, Jr., once declared to those who criticized his denunciation of the Vietnam War, who wanted to confine him to the ghetto of “black” issues. Now, forty years after being felled by an assassin’s bullet, it is still difficult to take the measure of the man: apostle of peace or angry prophet; sublime exponent of a beloved community or fiery Moses leading his people up from bondage; black preacher or translator of blackness to the white world?
This book explores the extraordinary performances through which King played with all of these possibilities, and others too, blending and gliding in and out of idioms and identities. Taking us deep into King’s backstage discussions with colleagues, his preaching to black congregations, his exhortations in mass meetings, and his crossover addresses to whites, Jonathan Rieder tells a powerful story about the tangle of race, talk, and identity in the life of one of America’s greatest moral and political leaders.
A brilliant interpretive endeavor grounded in the sociology of culture, The Word of the Lord Is Upon Me delves into the intricacies of King’s sermons, speeches, storytelling, exhortations, jokes, jeremiads, taunts, repartee, eulogies, confessions, lamentation, and gallows humor, as well as the author’s interviews with members of King’s inner circle. The King who emerges is a distinctively modern figure who, in straddling the boundaries of diverse traditions, ultimately transcended them all.

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About the Author:

Jonathan Rieder is Professor of Sociology at Barnard College, Columbia University.

Review:

A marvelous book, really special, and quite different from even the best of the King books. Jonathan Rieder demonstrates that King exemplified postethnic ideals, refusing to abandon either the distinctive solidarity of black people or the mutual support that human beings could offer one another across the lines of color and faith. (David Hollinger, author of Postethnic America)

Jonathan Rieder saves Martin Luther King, Jr. from the curse of canonization. He replaces the hagiographic, air-brushed images, and the kitschy plastic dolls with a brilliant reading of King's chameleon-like gift for effortlessly gliding―in public and private―between ethnic and universal idioms, between the street and theological seminars. The Word of the Lord is Upon Me is, then, a superb addition to King scholarship that restores our perception of this great man's complexity, flaws, scars and profound humanity. (Charles Johnson, author of Middle Passage and Dreamer: A Novel)

A stunning book that offers a genuinely fresh take on the most prominent figure of the civil rights movement. Jonathan Rieder's interpretation of King is not just incisive; it is eloquent and original. (Randall Kennedy, Michael R. Klein Professor of Law, Harvard Law School)

Martin Luther King, Jr., the voice of the Civil Rights Movement, knew more than most that words matter, that they are fundamental to any truly democratic mass political movement. In this absolutely brilliant new book, Jonathan Rieder shows how King crafted his rhetoric with a total command of the English language in its standard English register and its African American idioms. Rieder movingly represents King as a master performer who was never less than authentic, who always matched action to thought as manifested in the beauty of his words... Fantastic, an amazing book. (Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University)

Jonathan Rieder has done Dr. King and history a great service by demonstrating the complexity of King's thought and warning us of the dangers of reducing him to any one aspect of his teaching. Few writers have paid such careful attention to what King said or why he said it, and few have worked so hard to overturn the stereotypes that surround King. All who revere the Good News of justice and reconciliation that King brought to our nation will be moved by Rieder's pathbreaking account. (E. J. Dionne, Jr., author of Souled Out: Reclaiming Faith and Politics after the Religious Right)

[This] important book on King's rhetoric offers a more complex view of King than the sanitized version that is so popular, especially among conservative commentators. (E. J. Dionne, Jr. Washington Post 2008-03-21)

As Jonathan Rieder recognizes in The Word of the Lord Is Upon Me, Martin Luther King Jr. embodied the tension between the moral universalism of the black church and its racially specific character. Leading a movement dedicated to the destruction of racial barriers, King extolled the ideal of integration in hauntingly beautiful language. Yet King's own organization was specifically designed to be a black organization, not an interracial one. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference rested upon a base of African American churches. It accepted help from whites but insisted that primary leadership rest firmly in black hands... Focusing on the words he spoke in public and in private, and examining his interactions with the blacks and whites who were closest to him, Rieder shows that attempts to define King in terms of white and black influences distort the man and his message. Whether speaking to blacks or whites, King articulated a consistent moral vision that drew upon the Bible, the tenets of liberal Protestantism, the insights of philosophy, and an idealism that was quintessentially American... By the conclusion of this invaluable [book], Rieder's argument is wholly convincing: The key to King's leadership 'lay in the substance of his arguments and the commitments that animated it.' (Adam Fairclough Washington Post Book World 2008-04-06)

[A] rich, thoughtful new book... The Word of the Lord Is Upon Me is an extremely learned book, one that Rieder has been working on for almost two decades... Anyone who takes the time to peruse The Word of the Lord Is Upon Me will have no doubt: The real Martin Luther King Jr. more often sounded like Jeremiah Wright than like Barack Obama. (David J. Garrow Los Angeles Times Book Review 2008-04-06)

[The Word of the Lord Is Upon Me] does a service to King's legacy, by lifting the layers of oversimplifying myth and legend to reveal a deeper, more complex man. (Allison Samuels Newsweek 2008-04-05)

Rieder provides fresh insight into the mass appeal of Martin Luther King Jr. to different communities by examining the structure and background influences of the rhetoric of his public sermons and speeches. (Charles Murray Library Journal 2008-04-01)

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Book Description HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS, United States, 2010. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. You don t know me , Martin Luther King, Jr., once declared to those who criticized his denunciation of the Vietnam War, who wanted to confine him to the ghetto of black issues. Now, forty years after being felled by an assassin s bullet, it is still difficult to take the measure of the man: apostle of peace or angry prophet; sublime exponent of a beloved community or fiery Moses leading his people up from bondage; black preacher or translator of blackness to the white world? This book explores the extraordinary performances through which King played with all of these possibilities, and others too, blending and gliding in and out of idioms and identities. Taking us deep into King s backstage discussions with colleagues, his preaching to black congregations, his exhortations in mass meetings, and his crossover addresses to whites, Jonathan Rieder tells a powerful story about the tangle of race, talk, and identity in the life of one of America s greatest moral and political leaders. A brilliant interpretive endeavor grounded in the sociology of culture, The Word of the Lord Is Upon Me delves into the intricacies of King s sermons, speeches, storytelling, exhortations, jokes, jeremiads, taunts, repartee, eulogies, confessions, lamentation, and gallows humor, as well as the author s interviews with members of King s inner circle. The King who emerges is a distinctively modern figure who, in straddling the boundaries of diverse traditions, ultimately transcended them all. Seller Inventory # AAS9780674046986

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Book Description HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS, United States, 2010. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. You don t know me , Martin Luther King, Jr., once declared to those who criticized his denunciation of the Vietnam War, who wanted to confine him to the ghetto of black issues. Now, forty years after being felled by an assassin s bullet, it is still difficult to take the measure of the man: apostle of peace or angry prophet; sublime exponent of a beloved community or fiery Moses leading his people up from bondage; black preacher or translator of blackness to the white world? This book explores the extraordinary performances through which King played with all of these possibilities, and others too, blending and gliding in and out of idioms and identities. Taking us deep into King s backstage discussions with colleagues, his preaching to black congregations, his exhortations in mass meetings, and his crossover addresses to whites, Jonathan Rieder tells a powerful story about the tangle of race, talk, and identity in the life of one of America s greatest moral and political leaders. A brilliant interpretive endeavor grounded in the sociology of culture, The Word of the Lord Is Upon Me delves into the intricacies of King s sermons, speeches, storytelling, exhortations, jokes, jeremiads, taunts, repartee, eulogies, confessions, lamentation, and gallows humor, as well as the author s interviews with members of King s inner circle. The King who emerges is a distinctively modern figure who, in straddling the boundaries of diverse traditions, ultimately transcended them all. Seller Inventory # AAS9780674046986

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