cover image King: A Pilgrimage to the Mountaintop

King: A Pilgrimage to the Mountaintop

Harvard Sitkoff, . . Hill & Wang, $25 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-8090-9516-2

Historian Sitkoff covers the major points in the time line of King’s life and the Civil Rights movement—from the Montgomery bus boycott to the March on Washington, his anti–Vietnam War activism and assassination in 1968—but this brief, rudimentary volume will enlighten only the most novice student of Civil Rights history. The author passes through major moments in an informal tone that borders on the flippant (“King the gentle Jesus had bested [Birmingham police commissioner Eugene “Bull”] Connor the sadistic Satan”). Sitkoff (The Enduring Vision, co-editor) attends to the civil rights leader’s flaws as well as his accomplishments, noting King’s early plagiarism and making frequent reference to his sexual dalliances (“King flitted from one thinker to another at almost the same rate as he wrecked young women”). Though Sitkoff includes excerpts from King’s books and speeches (jazzed up with audience responses, e.g., “All right, yessir!”), neophytes are better served by David J. Garrow’s Pulitzer Prize–winning Bearing the Cross, which Sitkoff acknowledges in his ample and gracious “Bibliographic Essay.” (Jan.)