Martin Luther King, Jr.'s library -- What's interesting?
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Looks very much a working library, no novels or poetry apart from a few very standard classics, not even African-American writers of the time (the only James Baldwin is an essay collection) - I caught myself wondering whether he was misled by the title when he bought Pride and Prejudice. One biography of Toussaint Louverture, but no CLR James, no Fanon, Senghor or Césaire. Apart from Gandhi, he doesn't sem to have had much time for anything that wasn't directly concerned with his political work and preaching. Interesting.
(I suppose he may well have had other books he used for recreation that weren't part of the collection that ended up in Morehouse College.)
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Quick initial thoughts:
I'm always impressed when someone's library matches up with their public image. I'm not sure why, but it's neat to see that, indeed, Ernest Hemingway's (ErnestHemingway) library was full of books on fly-fishing and bullfighting.
King's library is full of Protestant sermons and theology, African American history, civil rights, peace and nonviolence. There's a lot of Ghandi, Tillich and Richard B. Gregg, as you might expect. Someone who knew Protestant theology better than me could, I think, say more here, but it seems to me his reading expanded here over time—that is, stuff published in the 1950s and 1960s seems more "liberal." It was great to see his reference material, especially for stuff I know better, like Greek, Hebrew and ancient history.
The unexpected stuff is also worthy of note. I was surprised to see the fanatically anti-communist None Dare Call it Treason. (Someone who know more about the 1950s and 60s could say more about his political reads.) His fiction strikes me as fairly predictable for the time, and not numerous, but well-chosen, with a mix of general, American and African American classics. Either King was not a big science fiction reader or it didn't make it into this collection, but Childhood's End stood out for me, as did Hershey's White lotus.
Anyway, it's given me some potential reads.
Apart from Gandhi, he doesn't sem to have had much time for anything that wasn't directly concerned with his political work and preaching. Interesting.
Well, the Ghandi was connected. But overall, I think you're right. This is the working library of a young man on the move and intensely engaged. He's reading a heck of a lot more (and more difficult) theology and politics than he "needed" for his work. But he's not reading extensively outside that, so far as we can see.
That said, as a general principle of Legacy Libraries, you're on much surer ground with what someone HAS than what they don't have. And with someone like King, you're on firmer ground for earlier stuff, since you can assume that, when he became the figure he became, he was sent presentation copies and etc.
>3 timspalding: The unexpected stuff is also worthy of note. I was surprised to see the fanatically anti-communist None Dare Call it Treason.
Of course, it may be part and parcel of his working library: "know thine enemy" and such, to understand the character and gist of attacks against him, in order to counter or explode them.
I have unread in my library None Dare Call It Conspiracy by Gary Allen which I hold onto for similar reasons: to understand a particular stance on US politics. Haven't been moved enough to read it yet, though. Wonder if MLK read None Dare Call It Treason, would be curious to read any marginalia there.
An early Richard Nixon biography? And Operation Hair Tonic which appears to be humor, but is obscure enough that I'm not sure.
His fiction reading seems just in line with his philosophy, with Lloyd C. Douglas and Henry Van Dyke.
He seems very well read on sociology (including politics, history, economics, etc.) and theologies, not just his own heritage. Also French and Hebrew language primers.
He read some Harry Emerson Fosdick!
All very interesting.
>5 2wonderY: Googling Operation hair tonic brings up the bibliography pages of a book about American Hitler-fiction, so perhaps it's a satirical rise-of-fascism novel?
>3 timspalding: It also occurs to me that members of the clergy tend to have limited budget for buying books, but good connections with academic libraries. Which probably also accounts for there being dictionaries and grammars for languages in which he has few or no books.
Which probably also accounts for there being dictionaries and grammars for languages in which he has few or no books.
Anyone spot a Greek or Hebrew Bible?
Comment on the Buddhism texts noted on the LL MLK thread - Quote from Wikipedia: "Nobel laureate Martin Luther King, Jr. nominated (Thich) Nhat Hanh for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967.(16) However, the prize was not awarded to anybody that year."
ETA - Thanks to everyone for their hard work on this!
I commented on MLK's ownership of Pride and Prejudice on Twitter, and I had something resembling that same thought about it as Thorold, though it took more the form of, "Boy, Austen's book is about a very different kind of prejudice than MLK was dealing with -- or is it?!?" On novels, I think it's interesting that he has The Adventures of Tom Sawyer but not Huckleberry Finn (nor any other Twain): I was taught in grad school that Huck Finn was in some ways a very racially progressive book because of Huck's friendship with Jim and ultimate refusal to betray him (in others very reactionary because of dialect etc.), but I think that interpretation post-dates King's era. Though of course I shouldn't read too much into what isn't there, since it might just be that Morehouse didn't acquire it.
Also, I noticed (though it's not surprising) the government documents and reports King had. I suppose I was wondering how one obtained those in the fifties and sixties; did you have to write to the GPO for them, perhaps? Or maybe they were presented to him from affiliated laborers in civil rights.
Both of your posts raise interesting ideas, amandafrench.
Some libraries are Federal depositories, and MLK may have known which near him offered those sorts of reports. But that's speculation, your suggestions about the GPO or colleagues are equally plausible.
>12 amandafrench:, >13 elenchus: Some of those may have been reports of meetings where MLK was involved himself, so they could well be courtesy copies.
In Britain in the good old days before we had the web thing, there were "Government Bookshops" in seven main cities where you could find every conceivable HMSO publication (and other useful things like Ordnance Survey maps). In principle you could order reports and statutes through normal bookshops as well, but I don't suppose many people did.
I think I've seen some old scientific reports from federal agencies in the US that had a note in the back saying that you could get copies by writing to the GPO.
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