King: A life

Jonathan Eig

In the first King biography since decades, Eig has written a biography based on thousands of recently released FBI documents and tens of thousands other new items, including personal letters, business records and White House phone recordings. This allowed Eig to provide a comprehensive understanding of Martin Luther King Jr., going beyond his famous “I have a Dream” speech and his non-violent fight against segregation and offered me a deeper insight into the individual behind the iconic image.

King is portrayed as the leader he was, managing to inspire thousands, but Eig also does an excellent job in tracing these interior struggles and self-doubts. In that King is revealed as a flawed man, self-doubting and never coming to grips with his fame, always doubting if he really deserved the attention. It allowed me to connect with him on a personal level.

King’s vulnerability, his struggles with self-doubt, and his perpetual questioning of whether he deserved the attention bestowed upon him made him relatable and human. It was through these moments of doubt and introspection that I found myself empathizing with his journey and appreciating the immense courage it took for him to continue his mission. The book of course ends with his assassination. When the moment had come, I felt a profound sense of loss, as if I had personally lost a dear friend. This is a testament to the power of Eig’s storytelling.

Perhaps it may sound as if Eig has written nothing other then short of a hagiography. He hasn’t. In fact, as the author states in the opening chapter, King had his flaws: his extramarital affairs, his ambiguity on gender equality, his views on LGBTQ+ rights and his tensions with more radical activists. Eig presents a balanced and honest portrayal of King, acknowledging the complexities of his character.

Eig’s willingness to address these challenging aspects of King’s life is a testament to the integrity of his research and his commitment to presenting a well-rounded depiction. By examining the flaws alongside the achievements, “King: A Life” offers a more nuanced and honest portrayal of a complex figure, enabling readers to engage with the full spectrum of King’s humanity.

For me, it showed me that King was a man who despite his flaws, managed to unite black and white Americans for a right cause, one that still reverberates to this day. I highly recommend this book to anyone seeking a more profound understanding of King’s life and his enduring impact on the world.

  • Jonathan Eig

    King: A Life

    ISBN: 9780374279295 | Pages: 688 pages | Publication date: May 16, 2023

    Buy on Amazon


"King: A Life" by Jonathan Eig is a groundbreaking biography that provides a comprehensive understanding of Martin Luther King Jr., going beyond the well-known aspects of his life. Drawing on thousands of recently released FBI documents, as well as personal letters, business records, and White House phone recordings, Eig offers readers a deeper insight into the individual behind the iconic image.

— Bill
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