Sunday, January 21, 2018

Book Review: "Why We Can't Wait" by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Why We Can't WaitWhy We Can't Wait by Martin Luther King Jr.

Powerful.

I’m glad to read Dr. King’s thoughts in his own words. I’ve settled too long for secondary sources.

This book tells the story of the Civil Rights Movement, especially the events of the year 1963. It centers on the events in Birmingham and includes King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” King explains what their aims were, what philosophy guided them, what tactics of direct action through nonviolence they employed, and what the results were. He does a masterful job of carrying the reader along, reasonably dealing with the objections that naturally arise, and persuading, always persuading.

I struggled as I read it to know what I would have done if I had lived in those days and in those places. My best guess (and maybe I still give myself too much credit) is that I would have been a passive bystander, sympathetic but too hesitant to be of much good. King speaks directly to folks like that, and I found myself looking at my shoes, shuffling around, trying not to be ashamed.

The book ends with King’s evaluation of what still needed to change and what it might cost in the days to come. His talk of assassinations seems almost prophetic given the events of 1968.

I found the book inspiring, challenging, insightful, and helpful. It doesn’t present a plan for racial harmony for the particular problems of 2018, but it shows what can be done if people rise up for freedom and justice for all.

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