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University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Kirk releases book about Dr. King, grassroots civil rights movement

As the nation celebrates the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, many take time to recall Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s leadership during the civil rights movement including the protest that inspired hundreds of thousands of people to descend on the nation’s capital in 1963.

Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement by Dr. John A. KirkA new book, “Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement,” written by Dr. John A. Kirk, Donaghey professor and chair of the UALR History Department, not only examines King’s leadership, but also looks at how the collective actions of individuals and organizations on the local level contributed to the national movement.

“The book combines insights from two fields of study seeking to combine the “top-down” national federal policy-oriented approach to the movement with the “bottom-up” local grassroots activism approach to demonstrate how these different levels of activism intersected and interacted with each other,” said Kirk.

Kirk draws from primary documents to provide a narrative of King’s life and analysis of his relationship to and with the broader civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

“Professor Kirk’s new book on Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement add depth to our knowledge about the relationship of the man to the movement that he inspired,” said Dr. Deborah J. Baldwin, dean of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences and associate provost for UALR Center for Arkansas History and Culture.

Kirk has written extensively about civil rights, both on a national and state level. Though this is his third book based on King, he asserts that there is still much to learn.

“The book contains 15,000 words of selected primary documents related to the text that allow students and readers new to the civil rights movement to access key movement writings and relate them to King’s life and the unfolding civil rights movement,” he said.

When Kirk became chair of the history department in 2010, he had already written five U.S. civil rights history books, three specific to Arkansas.

His texts shed light on key individuals and organizations that were integral to the movement, but often overlooked in other historical texts.

“Kirk has engaged students through his research to not only discuss issues that are difficult, but also to approach them in an analytical manner. We are fortunate to have the intellectual leadership he brings to campus,” said Baldwin.

“Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement” will be released for wide distribution Aug. 30.

A re-enactment of the March on Washington will take place at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 28, at the Arkansas State Capitol. The event is being organized by the Arkansas Martin Luther King Junior Commission and will include a toll of the “Let Freedom Ring” bell at 2 p.m.