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'Martin Luther King was a radical preacher'

IMPACT: Richard Reddie

AUTHOR RICHARD Reddie talks to Soul Stirrings about his recently released book, Martin Luther King: History Maker.

Soul Stirrings (SS): Martin Luther King (MLK) has been extensively written about, why did you feel the need to write another book about him?

Richard Reddie (RR): “Most people’s knowledge of the great man does not extend beyond the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the ‘I have a dream’ speech. My book shows that there is more to Dr King, as I explore the way the Atlanta preacher’s thinking and ideas matured over the 13 years of his public life."

“My biography shows King was a radical preacher, prepared to face the consequences of speaking truth to power.” 
SS: The Civil Rights Movement MLK led was over 50 years ago.  What do you think were the main achievements of the movement?

RR: “The obvious achievement is the presidency of Barack Obama; without the work of Martin Luther King an African-American would not be leading the USA."

“It is important to recognise President Obama was born at a time when African-Americans were denied the right to vote, and experienced poor work, education, housing and health outcomes. Dr King and his colleagues worked to change this, as well as perceptions of African-Americans in the USA and across the world.”
SS: How did the civil rights achievements impact people living in Africa and the Caribbean?

RR:“Dr King attended the Ghanaian independence celebrations in March 1957, and he linked the growing African independence movement with the US civil rights campaign. He was also one of the first Americans to call for sanctions against apartheid South Africa. Dr King regularly holidayed in Jamaica.

Moreover, his short visit to the UK in December 1964 proved a catalyst for the formation of race equality campaigning organisations in Britain.”
SS: Your book mentions that during the recent Arab uprisings the protesters sang songs made famous during the US Civil Rights Movement. Why do you think this is?

RR: “Dr King remains an inspirational figure for all struggles for freedom, justice and equality. We saw this in the so-called Arab Spring, but we can also witness it in the Occupy Wall Street campaign pressing for economic equality.”
SS: With the assimilation of black people in society, and more black people occupying positions of power, is MLK's message still relevant?

RR: “Although the world’s most powerful man is black, the sad fact is there are more black men in prison than attending university in both the UK and the USA. While it is also true that we now have a fairer society, it is still the case that far too many black people experience poor life outcomes.

“Dr King believed that a society should be judged on how it treats the last, the least and the lost, and as long as a disproportionate number of black people continue to fall into these categories his message will still be relevant.”
SS: What lessons do you think Britain's black church leaders should take from MLK's life?

RR: “Dr King was first and foremost a church leader. Dr King tells us that there should be no division between the spiritual and the sacred; God demands that the Church stands up for truth and justice. Moreover, when one looks at the freedom movement in the USA you find that the black church has always been at the centre of all efforts to improve black folks’ lives.”
Martin Luther King Jr: History Maker is published by Lion Hudson priced £10.99. Richard Reddie will be giving a talk about the book at St James Church, 236 Mitcham Lane, London SW16 on December 2 at 7pm. Admission is free.

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