Fortress Press

Behind the Public Veil: The Humanness of Martin Luther King Jr.

Behind the Public Veil

The Humanness of Martin Luther King Jr.

Lewis V. Baldwin (Author)


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What was Martin Luther King Jr. really like? In this groundbreaking volume, Lewis V. Baldwin answers this question by focusing on the man himself. Drawing on the testimonies of friends, family, and closest associates, this volume adds much-needed biographical background to the discussion, as Baldwin looks beyond all of the mythic, messianic, and iconic images to treat King in terms of his fundamental and vivid humanness. Special attention is devoted to King’s personal insecurities and struggles, his humility and affinity to common people, his delight in pleasant and passionate conversation, his insatiable love for the precious but ordinary things of life, his robust appetite for artfully-prepared and delicious soul food, his enduring appreciation for music and dance, his cheerful and playful attitude and spirit, his abiding interest in games and sports, and his amazing gift of wit, humor, and laughter.

King emerges here as an ordinary human being who enjoyed and celebrated life to the fullest, but was never bigger than life. Here we see the personal qualities of King—as a real, fleshly human being—and also as a man shaped by his social and cultural experiences and locations. This book reclaims the man behind the mythology.

  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781506405612
  • eBook ISBN 9781506405629
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Pages 380
  • Publication Date May 1, 2016


Foreword—Frye Gaillard
1. "A Regular Fella": The Boy Named M. L. King Jr.
2. "The Measure of a Man": Who Was Martin Luther King Jr.?
3. "Let Us Break Bread Together": Martin Luther King Jr., Southern Cooking, and the Sociocultural Significance of Food and Eating
4. "Let Our Rejoicing Rise": Music as a Central, Living Element in the Life of Martin Luther King Jr.
5. "His Child's Heart": Martin Luther King Jr.'s World of Play and Sports
6. "To Joy and Mirth": Martin Luther King Jr. and the Gift of Folk Wit, Humor, and Laughter


"Lewis Baldwin illuminates Martin Luther King, Jr.'s rich personal life in all of its strengths and foibles. His immersion in the Black Baptist Church tradition and first-hand experiences with Deep South segregation augment his scholarship on King. Behind the Public Veil is a respectful, insightful celebration of a life too often portrayed as impossibly super-human."

Maria Gitin | author of "This Bright Light of Ours: Stories from the Voting Rights Fight"

"This brilliant and fascinating book is based on more than thirty years of research and teaching on Martin Luther King, Jr, and it fills a longstanding void in the biography genre of King studies while also strengthening the cultural-historical category. Written by the top King scholar, Behind the Public Veil will appeal to both the specialist and the common folks for whom King cared so much."

Rufus Burrow, Jr. | author of 'Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Theology of Resistance'

"With meticulous scholarship, Lewis Baldwin lifts the veil on perhaps the greatest American of the twentieth century and exposes us to his humanity in different dimensions. Behind the Public Veil is a rare examination of King's personality. This book reveals the man behind the mystique."

Lawrence Edward Carter, Sr. | founding dean, Martin Luther King, Jr. International Chapel, Morehouse College