Dissecting the Dream

“I Have a Dream” may be Martin Luther King Jr.’s most famous speech, but it might not offer the best insight into the man’s life. Two new books about King offer new analysis and opinions – if not new information – about his famous words. King’s Dream, by Eric J. Sundquist, is an exegesis of the famous speech, and it unpacks King’s meaning word by word. The book points out that “I Have a Dream” does not stand as a “perfect lens” for his “lifelong philosophy.” In fact, King’s “dream” iterations in the speech departed from his original text, and Sundquist argues that King’s agenda was both more militant and more pacifist than his famous rhetoric would suggest. “Sundquist's book is a commendable assessment of an historic speech,” writes Clay Risen in a review for the Washington Post. “But as an attempt to capture the mind of Martin Luther King, it comes dangerously close to reification, to freezing in time what was in fact a wide-ranging, ever-evolving personal philosophy.” Another King book, Through It All: Reflections on My Life, My Family, and My Faith is as a memoir by Christine King Farris, King’s sister. Risen describes this account as more emotional, but is surprised that despite her proximity to King, Farris offers almost no new information about him.