This is the third book by Michael Eric Dyson that I have read this year. Tears We Cannot Stop and The Black Presidency were excellent and I was looking forward to reading more. I stumbled across April 4, 1968 at the library. I expected it to be more biography, or at least more concretely tied to King. But April 4, 1968 was more a jumping off place to loosely connected essays about a variety of topics.
Most interesting to me were the mini-bios of Jessie Jackson, Al Sharpton and Barak Obama (this was published before his election). Placing them in context of King was a helpful way to see them in the broader civil rights leadership picture.
On the opposite end, was Dyson’s Afterword, an imagined interview with King on his 80th birthday. Obviously a speculative interview will say a lot about the imaginer. But even though much of the words seem roughly accurate, that type of speculation just seems odd to me.
Both the afterword and some of the other areas of the book touch on how much King’s image has been made and preserved by his death. King was not particularly popular among the White population of the US prior to his death. It is only once he became a martyr and then limited in what he could say that King was embraced by many.
Dyson can get a bit carried away with his poetic/flowery language and I think that is at least part of the problem with this book, but it more about organization. It just doesn’t feel like single subject. It feels like a collection of essays that was hammered into a single book because there was a deadline.
That is not to say there lots of good content here. But I have a hard time recommending it when I thought that both of the two more recent books were far better.