Skip to:Content
Cover image for Bearing the cross : Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference
Bearing the cross : Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference
1st ed.
Publication Information:
New York : W. Morrow, c1986.
Physical Description:
800 p. ; 24 cm.
General Note:
Includes index.
Added Title:
Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book 921 KING 1 1

On Order


Author Notes

David J. Garrow is an American historian, born in Massachusetts in 1953. He is a graduate of Wesleyan University, and earned his Ph.D. from Duke University. He has taught at Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the City University of New York, The Cooper Union, the College of William and Mary, American University, and Emory University. Currently, he is Professor of Law & History and Distinguished Faculty Scholar at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.

He is the author of numerous essays, articles, and academic writings. His books include Liberty and Sexuality: The Right to Privacy and the Making of Roe v. Wade; Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; The FBI and Martin Luther King, Jr.; and Protest at Selma. His book, Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize in Biography, and the seventh annual Robert F. Kennedy Book Award. His latest book is Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Kirkus Review

Garrow's two previous books about King (Protest at Selma, The FBI and Martin Luther King) were mere exercises compared to this exhaustively researched biography. Unfortunately, the 200 pages of end notes that anchor this titanic study betray its core problem: although academician (political science/CCNY) Garrow skillfully weaves together the facts of King's combative life, his insistence on scholarly exactitude doesn't let him exercise the artist's license necessary to vivify his fascinating, complex subject. The author opens with Rosa Park's refusal to give up her bus seat to a white rider in December, 1955, an act of defiance which sparked the Montgomery bus boycott, the entire modern Civil Rights movement, and King's stormy career. At once, according to Garrow, the two dominant themes of King's life manifested: the perennial confrontation with governmental authority (so frequent were King's incarcerations that at times his enemies resorted to bailing him out to void his bids for martyrdom), and his lifelong sense of being caught on a whirlwind he couldn't control. Garrow also makes much of a little-publicized event coincidental with the boycott: a mystical encounter with Christ in King's kitchen, an experience from which King drew strength throughout his life. The rest is history, although never before so carefully laid out in every detail: the perennial jockeying between black leaders; King's love/hate relationship with the Kennedys; his absolute insistence on nonviolence; and, on the domestic level, King's chauvinistic treatment of his wife and his Rabelaisian sexual escapades (which Garrow treats with the utmost tact). An encyclopedic piece of research, but so flat in its exposition that only the scholarly inclined will have the fortitude to embrace it. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

From the Montgomery bus boycott of the mid-1950s, during which his leadership in the black civil-rights movement began to coalesce, to the balcony of the Memphis motel where he met his death, this volume offers a magisterial reckoning of the events in and significance of the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. Garrow's book is based substantially on vast interviews with people King knew, as well as on King's personal papers and other archival material. While not fast moving, the study has great depth and spirit. King emerges, of course, as a man of stature but also as a man who was, in the last word, human. Notes, bibliography, and index. BH. 323.4'092 (B) King, Martin Luther / Southern Christian Leadership Conference History / Afro-Americans Civil rights / Afro-Americans Biography / U.S. Race relations [CIP] 86-8594

Choice Review

In this ``personal portrait'' of Martin Luther King Jr., Garrow demonstrates the extraordinary research in primary sources that has characterized his previous scholarly work on the Civil Rights Movement. Garrow uses oral histories, government documents, manuscript and archival sources, as well as secondary works, to create a thorough and detailed chronology of the life of one of America's most important citizens. The book explores King's public and private life from his childhood to his death. Garrow also illumines significant aspects of social conflict in the US, as well as King's philosophy and tactics in confronting that conflict. Along with Stephen B. Oates's Let the Trumpet Sound (CH, Jan '83) and David L. Lewis's King: A Critical Biography (CH, Jul '70), Garrow's work emphasizes the particular actions and politics that defined King's public life. This biography reminds readers what King meant in his unyielding opposition to war and his unwavering commitment to economic and social justice. Scholars will find Garrow's extensive bibliography and index particularly useful, but all audiences will profit from exposure to this book.-G. Lipsitz, University of Minnesota

Go to:Top of Page