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Martin Luther King's Biblical EpicHis Final, Great Speech$
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Keith D. Miller

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9781617031083

Published to University Press of Mississippi: March 2014

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781617031083.001.0001

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date: 19 September 2018

I Left Atlanta

I Left Atlanta

King’s Religious Rhetoric

(p.27) Chapter 1 I Left Atlanta
Martin Luther King's Biblical Epic

Keith D. Miller

University Press of Mississippi

This chapter examines Martin Luther King Jr.’s route to Memphis, focusing on the religion of his boyhood in Atlanta and the oration delivered by his father there in 1940. It looks at a centuries-old tradition of African American biblical interpretation, from American slaves and abolitionists to important twentieth-century figures such as C. L. Franklin and Fred Shuttlesworth. In particular, the chapter discusses the tendency of slaves and later African Americans to narrate their own lives by shoving the Exodus and other biblical stories out of the past and into the present. It also considers the African American jeremiad and how it was extended by King into the 1960s through such speeches as “I Have a Dream.” The chapter concludes with the argument that King used “Our God Is Marching On,” an address that he delivered at the conclusion of the fifty-mile march from Selma to Montgomery, to explain the civil rights struggles of 1965 as a continuation of the biblical Exodus.

Keywords:   religion, Martin Luther King, oration, slaves, Atlanta, Exodus, jeremiad, speeches, civil rights, biblical interpretation

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