After last year’s MLK day I decided to read more about the man since I was only familiar with his most famous works. Searching Amazon I found The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., which was surprising both for its relative obscurity — it has only 82 Amazon customer reviews — and that it was compiled after his death. It was edited by King scholar Clayborne Carson at the request of King’s widow Coretta Scott King years after his death.
Several reviewers criticized the autobiography since it was put together posthumously, which I think is unfounded. So many autobiographies are really written by ghostwriters and given a rubber stamp by their living subject. This is the opposite: Dr. King wrote an amazing body of work on his own (he even writes spectacularly from jail) and it’s simply been combined into an autobiography after his death.
This is an autobiography that deserves a spot of the shelf with the other greats, including Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom.
Here are my Kindle highlights from the book:
In my own life and in the life of a person who is seeking to be strong, you combine in your character antitheses strongly marked. You are both militant and moderate; you are both idealistic and realistic. (location 142)
I was determined to hate every white person. As I grew older and older this feeling continued to grow. (location 219 )
“One of these days, I’m going to put my body up there where my mind is.” (location 251)
I read Henry David Thoreau’s essay “On Civil Disobedience” for the first time. Here, in this courageous New Englander’s refusal to pay his taxes and his choice of jail rather than support a war that would spread slavery’s territory into Mexico, I made my first contact with the theory of nonviolent resistance. (location 316)
Simple is better than complex.
Complex is better than complicated.
Jeff Bezos in his letter yesterday to Washington Post employees:
The paper’s duty will remain to its readers and not to the private interests of its owners.
Jeff Bezos in his 1997 letter to Amazon shareholders:
We will continue to focus relentlessly on our customers
We will continue to make investment decisions in light of long-term market leadership considerations rather than short-term profitability considerations or short-term Wall Street reactions.
A couple years ago I got around to reading Nelson Mandela’s autobiography Long Walk to Freedom. Having grown up learning about Mandela as larger-than-life hero, I expected a very serious and tactical account of his struggle. Instead Mandela’s autobiography is as warm, human and even funny as can be. He’s as open about his vulnerabilities, mistakes and regrets as he is about his triumphs.
The entire book is a must read, and given the news it should be moved to the top of your reading list, but in the meantime I thought I’d share my favorite lines from the book by way of my Kindle highlights.
in Johannesburg I found that many of the most outstanding leaders had never been to university at all
I always regarded Alexandra Township as a home where I had no specific house, and Orlando as a place where I had a house but no home.
There is little favorable to be said about poverty, but it was often an incubator of true friendship. Many people will appear to befriend you when you are wealthy, but precious few will do the same when you are poor. If wealth is a magnet, poverty is a kind of repellent. Yet, poverty often brings out the true generosity in others.
In love, unlike politics, caution is not usually a virtue. I was neither confident enough to think that I might succeed nor secure enough to bear the sense of failure if I did not.
There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.
I discovered for the first time people of my own age firmly aligned with the liberation struggle, who were prepared, despite their relative privilege, to sacrifice themselves for the cause of the oppressed.
Someone recently asked me skeptically, “Can you tell a story with a Vine?”
I responded, “Can you tell a story with a photo? It only has one frame. A Vine has over a hundred.”
I would rather fail as a writer than succeed as a lawyer.