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January 19, 1986|E. W. ALEXANDER

MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. . . . TO THE MOUNTAINTOP by William Roger Witherspoon (Doubleday: $24.95, until Jan. 31; $30 thereafter, illustrated in color and black-and-white). In a scant 13 years, Martin Luther King Jr. dispatched an idea that was spelled out by this nation's forefathers more than 200 years ago--that "all men are created equal." Journalist William Roger Witherspoon picks up King's story just before his vault into public life, in 1955, as he spearheaded the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott. Witherspoon's accounts are straightforward, terse and strengthened by an ample collection of memorable photographs. Witherspoon correctly focuses on King and his contribution throughout the book, but some lesser-known heroes of the Civil Rights Movement such as sharecropper-turned-political activist Fannie Lou Hamer, student activist Bob Moses and even Harry Belafonte are unveiled as well. Individuals who, along with King, suffered ceaseless beatings (by citizens and the police), jailings, hosings, bombings, attempts upon their lives, accusations of communism and murder--to enfranchise millions of black people. The book recounts moments of personal crises in King's life. Before his assassination in 1968, his selflessness led him to shoulder the plight of the poor and to stand at the vanguard to stop the killing in Vietnam. It was at this time, also, that some of his most ardent supporters criticized him severely. President Lyndon B. Johnson said, after one of King's speeches in which he spoke out against the war, that it sounded "right down the Commie lines." This book is a primer for the first national celebration of King's birthday in 1986. Witherspoon captures the spirit and commitment of this humanitarian and confirms his recognition as a national hero.

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