Bearing the Cross

David J. Garrow

This is a definitive biography of Martin Luther King, Jr., and it did win a Pulitzer Prize. However, it was a disappointing, tedious book. For one reason, it was not properly a biography of King. This is the account of King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which was the organization he led to fight for civil rights. The book is just way too detailed about conversations during endless meetings. There is too much detail! At the same time, it lacked the big sweep and overview of thoughts about his life and impact. In some ways, it is almost more of a chronology than a biography. However, it is very well researched and fairly well written.

For me though, the book was disappointing in another sense. It was the first biography of King I had read and I was disappointed by the lack of heart for God. Maybe it was there and the biography didn’t capture it, but surely it would have come out somewhere. It was disturbing that King had many affairs, that he had such a bad marriage, and that he seemingly spent so little time with his kids. He was a man lacking peace and full of anxiety. You do not read of his love for the Word or his heart for prayer. It would be difficult to say from this book whether or not he knew the Lord. He was more of a professional minister. All I can say is: I hope so. I hope he knew the Lord.

Unless one is a very serious student of King, I would not recommend this book.