Dr. Derryn E. Moten, Alabama State University department of history and political science chair, will give a lecture about Crusader Without Violence: A Biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. on September 6, 2018 at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library.
Published to critical acclaim in 1959 and long out of print, “Crusader Without Violence: a Biography of Martin Luther King, Jr.” was the first biography of the dynamic leader who emerged from the 1955–56 Montgomery Bus Boycott as the spokesman of the 20th century American civil rights movement. NewSouth’s 60th Anniversary Edition, with a new introduction containing new biographical details about its author, returns to general circulation a valuable, rare, and engaging account of Martin Luther King Jr. before he became an American icon. Author L. D. Reddick had known the young King in Atlanta. They became reacquainted when Reddick moved to Montgomery in 1956, where King pastored the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. Reddick became a congregant and King’s friend and was active with him during the bus protest. Reddick himself was a noteworthy, distinguished historian who would fall victim to Alabama’s segregationist state government.
Republication of this book places in bold relief the possibility that it will remain the seminal work on the most celebrated religious and civil rights figure in the 20th century.
Moten, the champion of this new edition, provides an introduction that puts Reddick’s biography of King into context, updates Reddick’s life after he was forced to leave his teaching position in Montgomery, and explains why Crusader Without Violence —notwithstanding the hundreds of books published on King’s life since this one— remains a significant historical document.
“The first biography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was written by Dr. L. D. Reddick on the campus of Alabama State College–ASC–now University. Only two King biographies were written before his death in 1968,” explains Dr. Moten. “The second was What Manner of Man by Lerone Bennett, Jr., King’s Morehouse College classmate who died this February.”
Harper & Brothers originally published “Crusader Without Violence” in 1959. In the wake of its release, Alabama State College students staged the first “sit-down” demonstration in Alabama on February 25, 1960.
“The Alabama State Board of Education expelled nine of these students and placed twenty on probation. The College sent the letter below to one of the students placed on probation. Alabama Governor John Patterson insisted the State Board fire ASC faculty members “disloyal” to the State of Alabama and Alabama State College. This email includes letters sent to Dr. L. D. Reddick by ASC President H. C. Trenholm (a Morehouse graduate) terminating Reddick (former Chief Librarian at Atlanta Univ.). There are letters from ASC professor Mary Fair Burks (founder of the Women’s Political Council) to Dr. King. Burks addresses Dr. King as “Martin” and in his reply, King addresses her as “Frankie.” Burks speculates that she, “Reddick, and Jo Ann [Robinson],” (WPC president at the beginning of the Montgomery Bus Boycott), “expect to be fired.” Mary Fair Burks ended up at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and Jo Ann Robinson ended up at Grambling University. L. D. Reddick ended up at Coppin State University.”
In May 2018, outgoing Interim State Superintendent of Education, Dr. Ed Richards, expunged the ASBE records of the ASC students and faculty wrongly punished in 1960. During the first wave of sit-ins, students at Florida A & M, Kentucky State Univ., and Southern Univ. were also expelled, but Alabama, so far, is the only state board of education to expunge these records.
Derryn E. Moten is a professor of history and chair of the history and political science department at Alabama State University, formerly, Alabama State College, and formerly, the department of history that Dr. L. D. Reddick chaired from 1955 until 1960. He is a local co-president for the American Federation of Teachers and is vice chair of the AFT Higher Education Policy and Planning Council. He is also a vice president for the Alabama AFL-CIO.