Black Agency
Published by
Farrar, Straus and Giroux (unscheduled)
Current material
Original language


by Eig, Jonathan

Martin Luther King Jr. was the courageous and brilliant leader of the American civil rights movement, but today many Americans know nothing about him beyond four syllables: "I have a dream." When we turn true heroes into superheroes, when we simplify the lives of great men and women in order to make their lessons easier to digest, we fail to honor them.
Books have their moments. Now is the time for a comprehensive biography of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

It has been thirty-six years since the last full biography of him. The timing for a book about King could not be better: thousands of documents have been released by the FBI regarding King; many of his friends, followers and confidants are eager to talk, and nearing a point in their lives where, if they aren't heard soon, their stories will be lost for good.

Yes, there have been books about King: Taylor Branch wrote of King's leadership in the civil rights movement in PARTING THE WATERS; David Garrow wrote about his years with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in BEARING THE CROSS; Michael Eric Dyson wrote I MAY NOT GET THERE WITH YOU, a critical assessment of King's career and his impact, told in a series of essays. But in the thirty-six years since the last full biography of King was published, a plethora of new primary documents have become available and our understanding of King the man has fundamentally changed. The new materials include the 102 interviews with King contemporaries conducted between 2010 and 2016 for the Civil Rights History Project at the National Museum of African American History and Culture; more than 100 interview transcripts from the 1987 documentary EYES ON THE PRIZE; handwritten notes from James Baldwin; an interview from 1964 taken by the poet and novelist Robert Penn Warren; as well as the tens of thousands of newly released FBI documents.

Some of King's contemporaries, including Harry Belafonte and Andrew Young, have already provided Jonathan with interviews for this new look at King's life. Rev. Jesse Jackson, Cong. John Lewis, and Diane Nash are among those who have promised interviews. This book will also draw on recent research suggesting that King battled depression, taking advantage of thousands of newly archived personal letters written by King, his friends, and colleagues, including a collection of newly discovered letters that King wrote to his first biographer, Lawrence Dunbar Reddick, in 1958.

Jonathan Eig is the New York Times best-selling author of five critically acclaimed books.
His most recent book, ALI: A LIFE, was a finalist for an NAACP Image Award. It has also been long-listed for the Plutarch Prize for biography and the 2018 PEN/ESPN Award for literary sports writing. The Wall Street Journal named it one of the ten best non-fiction books of 2017, Smithsonian called it one of the ten best books of the year, and Sports Illustrated called it the best book of 2017.
Eig's first book, LUCKIEST MAN: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF LOU GEHRIG, won the Casey Award for best baseball book of 2005. Eig is a former senior special reporter at The Wall Street Journal. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Esquire, and The New Republic. He has been featured on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, CBS Sunday Morning, The Today Show, and dozens of other network programs. He is also listed as one of the primary sources in Ken Burns' documentary on Prohibition as well as in Burns' documentary on Jackie Robinson. He is currently working as senior creative producer with Burns on multi-part Muhammad Ali documentary. Eig is also working with Morgan Freeman and CBS Studios to develop an eight-part television series based on the life of Ali. Eig's birth-control pill book is under option by Nat Geo for a television series, and his Lou Gehrig book is in development as a major motion picture.

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