Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Year by Tavis Smiley with David Ritz is an agonizing look at the last year of the civil rights movement leader.
The book chronicles the less talked about year that led up to King’s assassination on April 4, exactly fifty years ago today.
Smiley’s portrayal gives a different narrative than people are used to. It personalizes the legendary figure, portraying him as someone with both faults and amazing qualities.
He recounts King’s last days in detail. This includes all the trials and tribulations King had to face after his momentous antiwar speech at Riverside Church in Manhattan, one year before his assassination.
Smiley writes that in his final twelve months, King was denounced and rejected by groups of people that had supported him. These included members of the press, his friends in the government, and the black middle class.
King, who attended Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester in neighboring Delaware County, had to rise above all of these challenges and continued his fight against racism, poverty, and militarism until his final day.