cover image I May Not Get There with You: The True Martin Luther King Jr.

I May Not Get There with You: The True Martin Luther King Jr.

Michael Eric Dyson. Free Press, $25 (416pp) ISBN 978-0-684-86776-2

Reduced to sound bites and videoclips, Martin Luther King's image has become one of a starry-eyed dreamer and conformist, contends Dyson (Making Malcolm, etc.) in this attempt to reclaim the man he views as heroic and flawed from biographers, conservatives and cultural pundits who, Dyson maintains, have molded King's myth to fit their own political agendas. Readers looking for a linear, biographical text will not find it here. Rather, this is a bracing, at times willfully subjective, political and cultural analysis in which Dyson's signature style is just as surprising and revolutionary as what he presents as King's true message. As usual, this Baptist minister employs poetic, sometimes acrobatic gospel rhetoric, with multiple references to black youth music. One shock to the system is his point-by-point comparison of the similarities between King's and slain rapper Tupac (2pac) Shakur's philosophies. In addition to going on the offensive against the deliberate editing, misquoting and misinterpretations of King's speeches, Dyson tackles such difficult issues as the exclusion of women activists from civil rights organizing. He also deals adeptly with King's adulterous liaisons, his disillusionment with whites, the accusations of plagiarism against him and the troubles in King's marriage. His attempt to resurrect King as an evolutionary and revolutionary thinker who was not ""down"" with the status quo brings home that his stance on economic equity and the Vietnam War intensified the FBI surveillance that Dyson believed led to his death. In the end, Dyson successfully proves how vital King's true political views and personality are to struggling and frustrated black youth today. (Jan.)