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Extremist for Love

Martin Luther King Jr., Man of Ideas and Nonviolent Social Action

By Rufus Burrow Jr.

Publication Year: 2014

In an era where people are often sorted into the categories of ‘thinker’ and ‘doer’, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stands out – a rare mix of the deeply profound thinker and intellect who put the fruit of that reflection into the service of direct social action.

In this helpful telling of King’s life, Dr. Rufus Burrow knits together the story of King’s family, his intellectual journey, and his experience of the pervasive racism of America in that era in a way that highlights the connections between King’s thought and his actions. The result is a renewed understanding of the roots of King’s actions and a fresh appreciation for how intellectual activity can impact our world in surprisingly direct ways.

Published by: Augsburg Fortress Publishers


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p. C-C

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

Martin Luther King Jr. was the most influential civil rights activist in the United States in the twentieth century. This point is well established in the growing body of scholarship on this phenomenal figure. But King was far more than a celebrated civil rights activist who gave dynamic speeches, led nonviolent...

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pp. xi-xviii

So great a person was Martin Luther King Jr., and so profound were his contributions and legacy to this country and the world, that volumes of books have been and will be written on him. There was a time when I believed that the market could not contain more publications on King. I therefore concluded...

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pp. xix-xx

I have read many volumes of books on the life, teachings, and nonviolent philosophy of Martin Luther King Jr. It is important that readers know that I consider Professor Lewis V. Baldwin of Vanderbilt University and Clayborne Carson, Director of the King Papers Project and Professor of History at...

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pp. 1-8

This book is comprised of five parts, with a total of ten chapters. Each part introduces the major subject to be discussed and provides an overview of the chapter(s) therein. Part 1 focuses on the family roots of the protest tradition of Martin Luther King. Did King come from a family that was steeped in the...

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Part 1: Roots of Protest and Nonviolence in the King Family

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pp. 9-16

Coretta Scott King once recalled the story that Martin Luther King Sr. (Daddy King) told her about his mother’s physical retaliation against the white mill owner who beat him one day when she sent him on an errand. When he returned home in bloodied condition, Delia King commanded her son to tell...

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1: Paternal Grandparents

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pp. 17-32

Martin Luther King Jr.’s paternal grandfather, James Albert King (1864–1933), was the son of an enslaved Afrikan, and was himself a sharecropper in Stockbridge, Georgia. The white plantation owner and landlord, whose name was Graves, provided James King’s family with many of the necessities for...

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2: Maternal Grandparents

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pp. 33-48

Adam Daniel Williams (1863–1931) was King Jr.’s maternal grandfather.1 A. D.’s father, Willis Williams (1810–1874), was an old-time enslaved preacher (or “exhorter” as they were called in those days) who joined Shiloh Baptist Church (1846) in Penfield, Georgia nearly 100 miles east of Atlanta. This means that...

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3: Parents

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pp. 49-66

An industrious, hardworking, eager youth who was steeped in fundamentalist Christian faith and ideas, Michael King worked long, hard hours once he settled in Atlanta. He saved most of his money, attended school at night, and studied assiduously. After graduating from high school he tried unsuccessfully—at...

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Part 2: Formal Intellectual Influences

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pp. 67-76

In his seminal popular book Martin & Malcolm & America: A Dream or a Nightmare (1991), theologian James H. Cone helpfully declared that Martin Luther King was not an academic theologian, but “a theologian of action, a liberation theologian (in the best sense) whose thinking about God was...

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4: The Walter Rauschenbusch Factor

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pp. 77-100

While in seminary, Martin Luther King read and pondered the work of many of the great Western theologians and social philosophers in an effort to satisfy his quest for a sound theological foundation for his deepening social conscience. Of all the thinkers he read during his seminary and doctoral studies, King...

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5: The Christian Realism of ReinholdNiebuhr

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pp. 101-134

As a doctoral student, Martin Luther King was formally trained in systematic theology or what he sometimes characterized as philosophical theology. Because of his early interest as a teenager to solve the social problems that nagged and hounded his people, he became progressively more interested in...

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Part 3: A Preacher and Some Women Pave the Way

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pp. 135-146

The two chapters in Part 3 (six and seven) take up the matter of people in Montgomery, Alabama who helped pave the way for the civil rights ministry of Martin Luther King. There were many contributors along the way, but I focus on a select few. One was the Rev. Vernon N. Johns, an outstanding pastor-prophet- preacher...

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6: Vernon Napoleon Johns: “God’s Bad Boy”

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pp. 147-170

Martin Luther King’s ministry in Montgomery did not begin in a vacuum. One’s life evolves and builds on what has gone before. Consequently, King inherited a sound protest tradition from his predecessor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, the Rev. Vernon Napoleon Johns (1882–1965). His tenure at...

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7: Black Women Trailblazers

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pp. 171-198

Rosa Parks was devoted to civil rights for her people. In preparation for the work she would do with the Montgomery branch of the NAACP she participated in a leadership training workshop led by the venerable Ella Baker (of the National NAACP Office in New York City) held in Atlanta, Georgia...

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Part 4: Christian Love and Gandhian Nonviolence

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pp. 199-220

Part 4 takes an in-depth look at the roots of King’s understanding of Christian love, from the teachings and example of his mother and maternal grandmother, to his formal study of love in the academy. King frequently discussed the difference between the three Greek forms of love—eros, philia, and agape. He...

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8: Gandhian Influence and the Formal Elements of King’s Nonviolence

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pp. 221-282

This chapter begins with a discussion on the general influence that Mohandas K. Gandhi had on Martin Luther King. Attention is also given the role that Bayard Rustin played in educating King about Gandhian ideas and techniques of nonviolence. There is consideration of the significance of Gandhian vows...

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9: Training in Nonviolence

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pp. 283-306

An important feature of the application of nonviolence, beginning in Montgomery, and in subsequent civil rights campaigns, had to do with training. Generally, would-be demonstrators did not know how to behave nonviolently when verbally or physically attacked by racist opponents. Nor did...

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Part 5: Where Do We Go from Here?

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pp. 307-318

Although Martin Luther King experienced moments of discouragement when it seemed that progress toward the attainment of civil rights and equality was not occurring quickly enough, or the changes that were occurring were not deep enough to make a real and lasting difference in the lives of the vast...

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10: Enduring Racism: What Can Be Done to Keep Hope Alive?

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pp. 319-364

Early in his civil rights ministry, Martin Luther King made it crystal clear that the goal was to save the soul of the nation and to establish the beloved community. He did not understand this to be a perfect community, or that it would be a one-to-one correspondence in all details with the kingdom of...


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pp. 365-370

Back Cover

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p. BC-BC

E-ISBN-13: 9781451480276
E-ISBN-10: 145148027x
Print-ISBN-13: 9781451470208
Print-ISBN-10: 1451470207

Page Count: 250
Publication Year: 2014

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968.
  • King, Martin Luther, -- Jr., 1929-1968 -- Political and social views.
  • Nonviolence -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Social action -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • African Americans -- Biography.
  • Civil rights workers -- United States -- Biography.
  • Baptists -- United States -- Clergy -- Biography.
  • African Americans -- Civil rights -- History -- 20th century.
  • Civil rights movements -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • United States -- Race relations -- History -- 20th century -- Sources.
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