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Cover image for Redemption : Martin Luther King Jr.'s last 31 hours
Redemption : Martin Luther King Jr.'s last 31 hours
Physical Description:
x, 204 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
Atlanta departure -- Detour -- The strike -- Airport arrival -- The invitation -- The Mayor -- Lorraine check-in -- Damage control -- The injunction -- Invaders -- Nine-to-five security -- Reluctant speaker -- The stalker -- Summoning Dr. King -- From the mountaintop -- Long night -- Home pressures -- Invaders' exit -- Melancholy afternoon -- Ray's lucky breaks -- Dark night -- Redemption.
On April 3, 1968, arriving in Memphis, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was being denounced as an agent of violence. He was facing dissent within the civil rights movement, among his own staff. A federal court injunction barred him from marching. Threats mounted; he feared an imminent, violent death. That night, King gathered the strength to speak at a rally on behalf of sanitation workers. Rosenbloom recounts the pressures that were bedeviling King, and shows how a series of extraordinary breaks enabled James Earl Ray to construct a sniper's nest and shoot King.


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An "immersive, humanizing, and demystifying" (Charles Blow, New York Times ) look at the final hours of Dr. King's life as he seeks to revive the non-violent civil rights movement and push to end poverty in America.

At 10:33 a.m. on April 3, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., landed in Memphis on a flight from Atlanta. A march that he had led in Memphis six days earlier to support striking garbage workers had turned into a riot, and King was returning to prove that he could lead a violence-free protest.

King's reputation as a credible, non-violent leader of the civil rights movement was in jeopardy just as he was launching the Poor Peoples Campaign. He was calling for massive civil disobedience in the nation's capital to pressure lawmakers to enact sweeping anti-poverty legislation. But King didn't live long enough to lead the protest. He was fatally shot at 6:01 p.m. on April 4 in Memphis.

Redemption is an intimate look at the last thirty-one hours and twenty-eight minutes of King's life. King was exhausted from a brutal speaking schedule. He was being denounced in the press and by political leaders as an agent of violence. He was facing dissent even within the civil rights movement and among his own staff at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In Memphis, a federal court injunction was barring him from marching. As threats against King mounted, he feared an imminent, violent death. The risks were enormous, the pressure intense.

On the stormy night of April 3, King gathered the strength to speak at a rally on behalf of sanitation workers. The "Mountaintop Speech," an eloquent and passionate appeal for workers' rights and economic justice, exhibited his oratorical mastery at its finest.

Redemption draws on dozens of interviews by the author with people who were immersed in the Memphis events, features recently released documents from Atlanta archives, and includes compelling photos. The fresh material reveals untold facets of the story including a never-before-reported lapse by the Memphis Police Department to provide security for King. It unveils financial and logistical dilemmas, and recounts the emotional and marital pressures that were bedeviling King. Also revealed is what his assassin, James Earl Ray, was doing in Memphis during the same time and how a series of extraordinary breaks enabled Ray to construct a sniper's nest and shoot King.

Original and riveting, Redemption relives the drama of King's final hours.

Author Notes

Joseph Rosenbloom is an award-winning journalist who has been a staff reporter for the Boston Globe , an investigative reporter for Frontline , and a senior editor for Inc . magazine. He has written for the Wall Street Journal , New York Times , American Prospect , among other publication, and lives in Newton, Massachusetts.

Reviews 3

Kirkus Review

An encapsulation of the civil rights reformer's life through the lens of the 31 hours before his assassination in 1968.Investigative journalist Rosenbloom, formerly of the Boston Globe, Frontline, and Inc., reinforces the story of the end of Martin Luther King Jr.'s remarkable life with an integrated summary of the career that brought him finally to the Lorraine Motel in Memphis in spring 1968. The garbage collectors of Memphis, virtually all black, were on strike. Earlier in the city, rioting marred a march led by King, who was the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference at the time. Though the SCLC was in the midst of planning a Poor People's March in Washington, D.C., King, depressed and weary, felt compelled to return to Tennessee to lead another demonstration. The author details a pending injunction against King's participation and the negotiations with unreliable and demanding gang members recruited as likely marshals and a stubborn mayor. Rosenbloom also concisely describes the quotidian bonding of King and his diverse associates, and he doesn't ignore King's relationship with his wife, Coretta, as well as his extramarital adventures. The personality and moodsoften dark, sometimes frolicsomeof the supremely gifted orator and preacher are a salient feature of the author's report. Also integral to the text are the late-afternoon activities of King's feckless murderer, James Earl Ray. The portrayal of Ray in his perch watching the civil rights leader at the Lorraine Motel is succinctly cinematic. The previous night was stormy as King spoke to a disappointingly small crowd, but his words were memorable. He mused on the possibility of a curtailed life, but, he said, he had "been to the mountain." He was only 39 when he died.A skillful depiction of the people and the scenes surrounding the killing of the champion of the civil rights movement. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Martin Luther King Jr.'s final hours are given substance and relevance as only an investigative journalist like Rosenbloom can do. The pacing drives you to the well-established, heartbreaking end, while the journey leaves you with a greater appreciation of the forces carrying King forward. A determined but embattled leader, he struggled to control himself and a national movement, exhausted and rightly fearing for his own life even as he continued his life's work with religious zeal. Outside forces, including the FBI, local authorities, and James Earl Ray, are seen tracking King's movements for their own purposes. Through eyewitness anecdotes and historical documents, Rosenbloom rolls back the familiar time line and weaves intimate details into the larger context of King's trip to Memphis to support the city's sanitation workers, whose strike personified the struggle for economic justice, the next focus for the civil-rights movement. King had also returned to Memphis to renew his commitment to nonviolence after a riot the previous month and in light of the rise of the Black Power movement. Redemption portrays a complex and challenging man whose legacy of visionary and courageous eloquence and action still offers hope for a more inclusive and peaceful America 50 years after his assassination.--Kaplan, Dan Copyright 2018 Booklist

Library Journal Review

By 1968, the civil rights movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-68), faced fierce criticism. Emboldened segregationists attacked King at any opportunity. The Black Panthers, headed by Stokely Carmichael, urged more confrontational and violent actions to bring about change. King's vocal opposition to the Vietnam War and his shift in priorities to the Poor People's Campaign alienated some of his closest and longtime followers. For his own part, King's strenuous schedule of speeches and travel was exhausting. Amid this atmosphere, King was drawn to Memphis to advocate on behalf of garbage collectors who were going on strike. Journalist Rosenbloom, in his first book, chronicles the final 31 hours of King's life. Using memoirs, interviews, and newly released papers from the files of Coretta Scott King and William Rutherford, former director of the Southern -Christian -Leadership Conference, Rosenbloom paints a taut and detailed picture of King's and his assassin's movements in Memphis. This slim volume makes palpable the culminating strain and fatigue King experienced during that fateful trip. VERDICT The final hours of King's life come into sharp focus in this must-read for anyone interested in the life of the civil rights leader.-Chad E. Statler, -Westlake Porter P.L., Westlake, OH © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. vii
Chapter 1 Atlanta Departurep. 1
Chapter 2 Detourp. 7
Chapter 3 The Strikep. 15
Chapter 4 Airport Arrivalp. 23
Chapter 5 The Invitationp. 31
Chapter 6 The Mayorp. 39
Chapter 7 Lorraine Check-Inp. 47
Chapter 8 Damage Controlp. 53
Chapter 9 The Injunctionp. 59
Chapter 10 Invadersp. 65
Chapter 11 Nine-to-Five Securityp. 73
Chapter 12 Reluctant Speakerp. 81
Chapter 13 The Stalkerp. 89
Chapter 14 Summoning Dr. Kingp. 99
Chapter 15 From the Mountaintopp. 107
Chapter 16 Long Nightp. 117
Chapter 17 Home Pressuresp. 125
Chapter 18 Invaders' Exitp. 133
Chapter 19 Melancholy Afternoonp. 141
Chapter 20 Ray's Lucky Breaksp. 149
Chapter 21 Dark Nightp. 155
Chapter 22 Redemptionp. 161
Epiloguep. 169
Notesp. 173
Acknowledgmentsp. 193
Indexp. 195
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