For Immediate Release Pamela MacColl
“Martin Luther King Jr.’s final hours are given substance and relevance as only an investigative journalist like Rosenbloom can do. The pacing drives you to the well-established, heartbreaking end, while the journey leaves you with a greater appreciation of the forces carrying King forward.”—Booklist, STARRED review
“A skillful depiction of the people and the scenes surrounding the killing of the champion of the civil rights movement.” —Kirkus Reviews
APRIL 4th MARKS THE 50th ANNIVERSARY OF MLK’S DEATH
Full Praise Sheet, Cast of Characters, and Event Schedule Attached
In the summer of 1968, the city of Memphis was still reeling from the shock and horror of the assassination of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As a young reporter interning at the Commercial Appeal, Joseph Rosenbloom vowed to one day write the story of the last hours leading up to King’s death. Returning to Memphis between 2006 and 2014, Rosenbloom interviewed two dozen people connected to the events of that fateful day. The result is Redemption, which Charles Blow of the New York Times hails as “immersive, humanizing, and demystifying.”
Rosenbloom, a former Frontline investigative reporter, examines in detail the last thirty-one hours and twenty-eight minutes of King’s life, from the bomb threat against him that delayed his flight from Atlanta on the morning of April 3rd, 1968 to his murder the following night. Drawing on fresh material from the recently opened King archives elucidated other facets of the story, including a lack of progress towards the launch of the Poor People’s Campaign and King’s state of mind in the spring of 1968. By digging into the hearing transcripts of the House Select Committee on Assassinations and the Memphis police records, Rosenbloom highlights how a previously unreported lapse in police security left King vulnerable. Police director Frank Holloman received warning calls that something was liable to happen to King in Memphis—yet he neglected to notify King of the threats and only provided security for King and his team for 6 hours after their arrival in town. All these years later, reports Rosenbloom, African-American security officer Ed Redditt, who was assigned to a surveillance team monitoring King from a distance, still feels anguish that had he been adequately guarding King, he might have been able to prevent the assassination.
Revealing the accumulating toll the movement was taking on King, who was emotionally and physically exhausted, Rosenbloom examines the extraordinary pressure he was under to recruit volunteers and raise funds for the Poor People’s Campaign, his ambitious project to eliminate poverty in the United States. He had spoken out against the Vietnam War and was facing blowback from the Johnson administration and dissension within his staff, while rioting had spread throughout the nation’s cities and there was a growing perception that King was “old news” compared to the new Black Power movement.
Rosenbloom underscores how dangerous it was for King and his associates to venture into Memphis. King knew little of the city’s political and racial environment, yet he was determined to organize a peaceful march. At the same time, he was trying to broker talks with a local Black Power group, the Invaders, in the hopes that they would not only keep the peace, but also provide security as parade marshals during a violence-free march. Rosenbloom details how King, his mood increasingly darkening, was unable to convince the Invaders to commit unequivocally to nonviolence. “He was trying to redeem his reputation as a nonviolent leader by leading a nonviolent march in Memphis,” reflects Rosenbloom. “He was drawing deeply on his faith in the redemptive power of sacrifice for a noble cause, as he risked his life—a faith rooted in the biblical example of Jesus.”
In vivid detail, Rosenbloom recreates the city of Memphis, the Lorraine Hotel, and the cast of characters surrounding King. There is Mayor Henry Loeb, who was unwilling to negotiate a settlement to end the garbage workers’ strike; King’s legendary local lawyer, Lucius Burch, who worked with King to fight the federal injunction against his proposed march; his brother, A.D.; his wife Coretta Scott King with whom he regularly talked on the phone; and his staff and fellow activists, including Dorothy Cotton, Ralph Abernathy, Bernard Lee, Andrew Young, and Jesse Jackson. Rosenbloom also writes of then-Senator Georgia Davis, who arrived in the pre-dawn hours of April 4th and spent the rest of the night with King, momentarily lifting his spirits.
Rosenbloom also traces the story of James Earl Ray, a petty criminal and drifter who tracks King through news reports and eerily makes his way to Memphis. There, writes Rosenbloom, Ray set up the perfect sniper’s nest in the bathroom of a derelict rooming house across from the Lorraine Hotel. Crouching near the window, Ray posed a Gamemaster 760 rifle on the ledge, and waited to kill the nation’s foremost civil rights leader.
The book culminates with King’s now-famous and prophetic “From the Mountaintop” speech at Mason Temple, during which he was often overcome with emotion as he exhorted his audience to understand that the choice today was between nonviolence and “nonexistence.” Then his speech took a highly personal turn, notes Rosenbloom. “It was unusual for King to dwell openly on the depth of his despair as he pondered his own death. This night in Memphis, however, he seemed near panic, anxious that he might be the target of an assassin’s bullet at any moment.”
About the Author:
Joseph Rosenbloom is an award-winning journalist who has been a staff reporter for the Boston Globe, an investigative reporter for Frontline, and a senior editor for Inc. magazine. He has written for the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, American Prospect, among other publications, and lives in Newton, Massachusetts.
Redemption: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Last 31 Hours
By Joseph Rosenbloom
March 27th, 2018
March 27th, 2018
ISBN: 978-080708338-3/ E-ISBN: 978-080708340-6 Audiobook Download: 978-080709233-0. Narrated by JD Jackson.