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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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Fire on the Streets and in the Bones

Fire on the Streets and in the Bones

King Revives Hebrew Prophecy

(p.89) Chapter 5 Fire on the Streets and in the Bones
Martin Luther King's Biblical Epic

Keith D. Miller

University Press of Mississippi

This chapter examines Martin Luther King Jr.’s quotation of passages from Amos and Jeremiah in order to present himself as a contemporary prophet as he delivered his final speech “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” at Mason Temple in Memphis on the night of April 3, 1968. It considers how King or anyone else can evoke biblical prophecy after the Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment, and modernity, and whether anyone can claim to be a biblical prophet in the twentieth century. Before investigating King, the chapter revisits the dynamics of prophecy as they appear in the Hebrew Bible. It then discusses the rhetorical dynamics of prophecy invoked by King as he claims the mantle of prophet as well as his ability to evoke biblical prophecy for the purpose of reinventing the garbage workers’ strike in Memphis and the city itself.

Keywords:   biblical prophecy, Martin Luther King, Amos, Jeremiah, biblical prophet, Hebrew Bible, garbage workers, strike, Memphis

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