Redemption: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Last 31 Hours Book Review
Joseph Rosenbloom's new book Redemption: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Last 31 Hours was a short but powerful read about the legendary martyr of the Civil Rights Movement. 2018 marks 50 years since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination and highlights the unfinished vision and hopes he desired for humanity.
What I enjoyed the most about Redemption was Rosenbloom's presentation. He relayed facts from his research without incorporating his personal biases. As a result, the book seemed to write itself, using the dialogue of King and those around him to carry the reader through the course of events. Chapter by chapter, the tension grew, as the author added more details featuring the layers of King's stress. By the time of King's assassination, he was a man under physical, mental and emotional strain. It is somewhat miraculous that he didn't have a nervous breakdown after the accumulation of death threats, physical assaults, public criticism, health issues and betrayals over the years.
The author did an excellent job of giving just enough information about certain people in King's life without saturating them with excessive attention. The chapters were brief, yet efficient. It appeared that only relevant information was added and this decision prevented the book from becoming too wordy. Rosenbloom elaborates on the strike of the sanitation workers and the Poor People's Campaign, which essentially went hand in hand. These two subjects reminded me of my 2016 trip to Memphis, Tennessee for a visit to the National Civil Rights Museum. Outside of the Museum, there is a woman who has been protesting the place for years. They evicted her and others from the Lorraine Motel in order to create the Museum. She says that this is not the legacy that King would have wanted. He would have preferred that the funds went to the impoverished.
The Poor People's Campaign and the Vietnam War were the primary thoughts of King during the last part of life. He became less popular for publicly criticizing the war. His campaign to take those living in poverty to camp out in Washington D.C. as a form of protest was a political threat. The Poor People's Campaign went beyond the issue of people of Afrikan descent, which is something I found interesting. It seems that with the Civil Rights Movement, the cause that focused on Black people exposed the roots of deeper issues. The problems regarding war and poverty were human maladies. Uniting people for a cause that many could relate to made King even more dangerous to his enemies than ever before.
One thing that I noticed about the book was that Rosenbloom does not concentrate too greatly on James Earl Ray. Personally, I do not believe that Ray was the assassin but if he did participate in the murder, he was not the only person involved. It did not seem logical to me that a person who escaped the Missouri State Penitentiary twice and altered the shape of his nose, would risk placing himself in the spotlight to kill an internationally respected man. Wouldn't he want to "lay low" and live a hidden life to avoid prison? He had already committed a string of crimes since his youth, but the actions he was taking of bettering himself don't line up with an intent to kill. There were so many others who desired to take down King. If Ray were involved, he may have simply been paid for the murder. A serial thief killing without getting paid doesn't fit Ray's style, in my opinion. I believe that it was a network of people who lynched Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
There is also mention of an affair that King supposedly had with a high ranking political woman. The author dedicates a short chapter to it and moves along with the other sections. I had heard of an affair, but I did not have much concern about it. If his wife did not make a grand scene about it, perhaps I should not either. I was not there, therefore, I cannot tell whether or not these events took place. I believe that focusing on an affair distracts us from King's essence and his vision. If he did do it, I would not agree with it. However, many people try to use it to tarnish all that he accomplished. President John F. Kennedy avidly cheated on his wife, yet nobody lets that stain his memory. I am glad, though, that the author mentioned an affair, for it helped me to gain clarity on that topic.
I would recommend this book to those who are interested in the history of people of Afrikan descent with an emphasis on the Civil Rights Movement. I would also refer this book to those who have studied the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as well as those who have read his writings. Short, but bittersweet, Rosenbloom did a wonderful job capturing a snapshot of history.
To learn more about Joseph Rosenbloom,his website is www.josephrosenbloom.com