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Ring Out Freedom!

The Voice of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Making of the Civil Rights Movement

Fredrik Sunnemark

Publication Year: 2004

Martin Luther King, Jr. was more than the civil rights movement's most visible figure, he was its voice. This book describes what went into the creation of that voice. It explores how King used words to define a movement. From a place situated between two cultures of American society, King shaped the language that gave the movement its identity and meaning. Fredrik Sunnemark shows how materialistic, idealistic, and religious ways of explaining the world coexisted in King's speeches and writings. He points out the roles of God, Jesus, the church, and "the Beloved Community" in King's rhetoric. Sunnemark examines King's use of allusions, his strategy of employing different meanings of key ideas to speak to different members of his audience, and the way he put into play international ideas and events to achieve certain rhetorical goals. The book concludes with an analysis of King's development after 1965, examining the roots, content, and consequences of his so-called radicalization.

Published by: Indiana University Press


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p. vii

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pp. ix-x

This work would never have been completed without help and support from many individuals and institutions. For reading drafts of different parts of the manuscript at different stages of the process and forcing me to sharpen my arguments and pointing me in directions that proved...

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Introduction: “There Must Be Somebody to Communicate . . .”

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pp. 1-10

The name Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929–1968) is recognized around the world. Many millions have heard his baritone voice cry out “Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. Let freedom ring from every hill and every...

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1. A Discourse of Faith

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pp. 11-78

When he was doing research for his study Martin Luther King, Jr.: The Making of a Mind, John Ansbro asked Wyatt Tee Walker, chief of staff of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) during several of the movement years, which writings most influenced King. Walker simply...

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2. Western Intellectualism and American Ideals

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pp. 79-122

King used other texts, other authors, and other historical situations to legitimize the civil rights struggle and to ascribe meaning to his rhetoric that went beyond the context of the speaking situation. King’s dual background in the preaching tradition of the African-American church and the...

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3. The Problem of Race

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pp. 123-154

In the rhetoric of Martin Luther King, Jr., many meanings and functions are related to the presence and centrality of race. First and foremost, King’s entire struggle, obviously, is in one sense about race. It is about black and white. The situation he tried to change was one where African Americans were...

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4. Third World, Cold War, and Vietnam

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pp. 155-194

Throughout his career King spoke and wrote of international situations and circumstances. King’s basic understandings determine the way he sees foreign countries and international politics; the language he uses to discuss such issues can in turn help us to get a clearer view of the structure of...

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5. Radicalization

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pp. 195-232

Over the course of his career as a civil rights leader, King went through a process of radicalization. The points of view he put forward during the Montgomery bus boycott and in Stride toward Freedom are not exactly the same as those he put forward during the struggle for fair housing...

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pp. 233-234

Several King scholars during recent years have deplored the fact that the King who lives on today is not the one who demanded economic democracy, who bitterly opposed his own government, and whose final call for justice meant much more than the easy-to-accept words of...


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pp. 235-256


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pp. 257-264


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pp. 265-273

E-ISBN-13: 9780253110817
E-ISBN-10: 0253110815
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253343765

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2004

OCLC Number: 62118185
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Ring Out Freedom!

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • English language -- United States -- Rhetoric.
  • Speeches, addresses, etc., American -- History and criticism.
  • King, Martin Luther, -- Jr., 1929-1968 -- Oratory.
  • Civil rights movements -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • African Americans -- Civil rights -- History -- 20th century.
  • King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968 -- Language.
  • English language -- United States -- Discourse analysis.
  • Rhetoric -- Political aspects -- United States -- History -- 20th century
  • King, Martin Luther, -- Jr., 1929-1968 -- Political and social views.
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