Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Harvard Sitkoff's "King: Pilgrimage to the Mountaintop"

Harvard Sitkoff is a professor of history at the University of New Hampshire and the author or editor of more than eight books, including A New Deal for Blacks; The Struggle for Black Equality, 1945–1992; and A History of Our Time.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book King: Pilgrimage to the Mountaintop, and reported the following:
My page 99 is the end of a four-page description and analysis of Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” which I consider one of the most cogent and eloquent American political writings. It is King at his best: violating a court injunction (an unjust law is no law at all); going to jail (by accepting imprisonment in order to arouse the community over its injustice, you were expressing the highest respect for law); refuting charges of being an “outside agitator” (Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere); defending his “extremism” and tactics of nonviolent direct-action civil disobedience (We have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure.... We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed); explaining why African Americans should not be patient with injustice (Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation); and scorching the moderates or gradualists (I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s greatest stumbling block is not the White Citizen Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice).

The King of my book is no mere dreamer and apostle of love. He is a fighter for change. And the Movement he helped lead did, indeed, change the legal status of African Americans, usher in significant political change, and undermine a way of life built on ingrained racial discrimination and segregation.
Learn more about King: Pilgrimage to the Mountaintop at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue