The Heavens Might Crack

The Death and Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.


By Jason Sokol

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A vivid portrait of how Americans grappled with King’s death and legacy in the days, weeks, and months after his assassination

On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was fatally shot as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. At the time of his murder, King was a polarizing figure — scorned by many white Americans, worshipped by some African Americans and liberal whites, and deemed irrelevant by many black youth. In The Heavens Might Crack, historian Jason Sokol traces the diverse responses, both in America and throughout the world, to King’s death. Whether celebrating or mourning, most agreed that the final flicker of hope for a multiracial America had been extinguished.

A deeply moving account of a country coming to terms with an act of shocking violence, The Heavens Might Crack is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand America’s fraught racial past and present.




BEFORE THE EVENING performance of April 4, 1968, conductor Robert Shaw put down his baton and stood to address the Atlanta Symphony audience. He announced that Martin Luther King Jr. had been killed. The concertgoers gasped and moaned. A Roman Catholic priest prayed for King and exclaimed, “The king is dead! Long live the king!”1

On the opposite side of the country, author James Baldwin sat by a Palm Springs swimming pool with the actor Billy Dee Williams. The phone rang, and a friend told Baldwin of the tragedy in Memphis. “It took awhile before the sound of his voice—I don’t mean the sound of his voice, something in his voice—got through to me.” At first, Baldwin felt numb. Then an “unbelieving wonder” overtook him. He wept briefly, and finally succumbed to a “shocked and helpless rage.” For years, that evening would remain a blur in Baldwin’s memory. “It’s retired into some deep cavern in my mind.”2

In Blacksburg, Virginia, hundreds of college students had packed an auditorium to watch Senator Strom Thurmond, the longtime segregationist from South Carolina, debate the liberal satirist Harry Golden. A Virginia Tech dean interrupted the debate to inform the audience that King had been assassinated. Though the student body was almost all white, “no Negro audience could have been more shocked by the news,” Golden recounted. “I heard groans of despair.” The dean asked Golden to say a few words about King. Golden offered an affectionate tribute, calling it “a sad day for the world and a sad day for Americans.” The students sat in silence, shifting in their seats, too stunned to applaud. Then Thurmond spoke: “I disagree with Mr. Golden’s estimate of Dr. King. He was an agitator, an outside agitator, bent on stirring people up, making everyone dissatisfied.” Mere minutes after hearing of King’s death, Strom Thurmond denounced him. Thurmond was no outlier—he spoke for the millions of white Americans who thought King had received his just deserts.3

The fatal shot rang out in Memphis, and it quickly rippled across the nation and the world. News of King’s murder stopped people in their tracks and rendered them speechless, moved many to tears and others to celebration, drove some to violence and still others to political activism.

African Americans were overcome with grief and gripped by rage. Despair seized Dorothy Newby, an eighteen-year-old who attended Hamilton High School in Memphis. “I wanted the world to end completely… I felt there was no reason to continue living, and above all I wanted to kill myself.” If such a foul deed could occur in this world, she wanted to opt out of it. Her classmate, seventeen-year-old Frankie Gross, broke down in tears. Gross “knew that people all over the world mourned his death, and I felt better knowing it.” At the same time, he realized that a violent anger was surging through the black neighborhoods of Memphis. “You could see and feel the hate in the Negro community after the assassination. People took guns to work the next day just waiting for any white person to do anything wrong.” The actions of law enforcement officials only intensified their fury. The National Guard rolled through the city in tanks and attempted to seal off African American neighborhoods. Black Memphians felt doubly victimized. Their leader was slaughtered by a white assailant and then they were treated as criminals.4

Clarence Coe, an African American who worked at Memphis’s Firestone factory, believed the race war had finally arrived. On Thursday evening, April 4, Coe’s foreman advised him that the plant was closing early and that a citywide curfew would be imposed. Coe asked why, and the foreman told him of King’s assassination. He left the factory with a coworker, climbed into his new Buick, and headed toward home. Coe drove carefully through a city under siege. National Guardsmen shined their lights on Coe’s car at Chelsea Avenue in North Memphis, and again at the intersection of Manassas Street and Union Avenue. He encountered more probing lights all along Mississippi Boulevard. Coe arrived at home and appraised his arsenal of firearms. He resolved to walk to the cemetery across the street, burn down a wooden bridge there, and take control of a small hill. “That’s what I thought everybody else was going to do,” he explained. But Coe was in for a surprise. “When I found out they [blacks] weren’t going to do nothin’… it took a lot out of me… I just expected to go to war… and I thought that would happen all over the world.” While Dorothy Newby had the impulse to take her own life in the aftermath of King’s assassination, Clarence Coe prepared for armed conflict.5

Martin Luther King was in Memphis to stand with striking sanitation workers, 1,300 black men whose struggle for dignity dovetailed with King’s own Poor People’s Campaign. King spent the final months of his life waging that fight against economic inequality. He envisioned masses of the nation’s poor, black and white and Latino, converging on the Washington Mall in a show of nonviolent civil disobedience. After King’s death, many African Americans in Memphis felt an unspeakable sense of loss. They were ashamed by the thought that their own community had failed to shelter him. They were also enraged—angry with Mayor Henry Loeb for bitterly opposing the sanitation strike, and infuriated at Memphis’s white citizens for denigrating King and denouncing the strikers. They were incensed that FBI officials could seemingly spy on King at all hours, yet fail to protect him from an assassin’s bullet and then allow the shooter to flee the city. Like African Americans across the country, they were outraged at the many whites who had given encouragement—tacit as well as explicit—to all of the King-haters and created a favorable climate for the assassin.

In the days after King’s assassination, hundreds of cities burned. African Americans rose up in violent rebellions, the largest of which occurred in Washington, Chicago, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh.

With King gone and with riots shaking America’s cities, it appeared impossible to reclaim the hopes of an earlier time. It felt like a gear in the machinery of the universe had shifted. Just a few years prior, upon the enactment of landmark civil rights laws, interracial harmony appeared conceivable; continued progress toward civil rights seemed probable. Such optimism quickly vanished.

King’s death acted as a tipping point in the nation’s racial history. It seemed as though the final flicker of hope for a multiracial America had finally gone out. And King’s death helped to steer the country toward a new course. King’s own vision of interracial fellowship appeared to have died with him. In its place reigned outrage and indifference, anger and apathy. King’s death and its aftereffects contributed to a rising militancy among African Americans and exposed an enduring white racism, all of which turned his ideal of the beloved community into a fanciful dream.

MARTIN LUTHER KING Jr. was a preacher and an activist, an orator and an organizer, a patriot and a dissident. By the age of thirty-nine, he had achieved so much.

King was born in 1929 to a middle-class family in Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn neighborhood. Throughout his childhood, he navigated the Jim Crow South. King graduated from Morehouse College at the age of nineteen, continued his education at the Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, and earned his PhD from Boston University. He married Coretta Scott in 1953. The following year, young King became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Blacks in Montgomery began a boycott of the city’s buses in December 1955, and elevated King to a leadership position in that struggle. The yearlong bus boycott would help to galvanize the southern civil rights movement. The larger freedom struggle evolved in tandem with King, the man and the movement each lifting one another to greater heights. Soon, he was the country’s most well-known civil rights leader.

The events of 1963 further cemented his standing. King led demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama, that provoked gruesome white violence, gained national and international attention, and ultimately pushed President John F. Kennedy to propose major civil rights legislation. In August 1963, King stood before the Lincoln Memorial and delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. He not only told the audience about his dream of a colorblind America, but also addressed the “unspeakable horrors of police brutality” and warned that the “whirlwinds of revolt” would shake the nation for as long as injustice prevailed. Through the years, King employed the language of the Bible as well as the Constitution. He spoke to whites and to blacks, urging African Americans to join in the nonviolent struggle for freedom and counseling whites that if they could overcome their racism, attack the inequality in their cities, and help to build a just nation, they too could join the beloved community. King often imagined the “beloved community” as his end goal—where racial harmony, economic equality, love, and peace prevailed.6

King began to exert more influence on the White House, working for the passage of civil rights laws, just as he continued to march along the dusty roads of the Deep South. President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in July 1964, outlawing segregation in public life. At the end of that year, King received the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1965, he joined a campaign for voting rights in Selma, Alabama, eventually leading marchers across Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge and all the way to Montgomery. The Voting Rights Act, which Johnson signed in the summer of 1965, enfranchised African Americans and buried the last legal vestige of the South’s Jim Crow system. King then committed himself more fully to battling segregation in the North. He had led marches in northern cities before, notably in Detroit in 1963 and Boston in 1965. In 1966, he took up residence in a Chicago slum and waged a struggle for open housing. During King’s final two years, he spoke out more forcefully on issues of economic inequality as well as foreign policy. He became a fierce critic of the Vietnam War and began to organize the Poor People’s Campaign. Throughout, he remained committed to nonviolent resistance.

King shaped how many people thought about America and its ideals, both within the country and around the world. For so long he held out hope. He asked the nation to live up to its promises of freedom and democracy, goaded it into enacting civil rights and voting rights laws, jabbed it for its barbarism overseas, implored it to see its poor people—to clothe them and house them and feed them. He kept faith in the principles expressed in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, thinking of those documents as “promissory notes” on which America had yet to make good. By the force of his will and with the eloquence of his voice, he convinced many others to believe in their nation even when that seemed to be asking the impossible. Despite the fire hoses and attack dogs, the lynchings and bombings, and the untold demonstrations of white supremacy’s savagery, many African Americans still clung to the hope that one day the country might deliver on its rhetoric of freedom and equality. The gap between American ideals and reality had yawned so wide, even since the founding. In the early and mid-1960s, because of the struggles and demands of African Americans, the nation seemed to be narrowing that gap.7

But the coming years would witness vicious racial strife, generational division, and pitched controversies over the Vietnam War. The latter half of the 1960s brought shattering episodes of violence: riots in the streets, the assassination of Malcolm X in 1965 and eventually of King and Senator Robert Kennedy. During his life, King encouraged Americans to commit themselves to collective sacrifice—and to remain hopeful about the nation’s potential. His death helped to destroy that sense of possibility and of shared purpose.

By King’s last years, the black freedom struggle had split into at least two divergent movements. Moderates like Roy Wilkins of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Whitney Young of the Urban League occupied one end of the spectrum. They believed African Americans could still advance their causes through legislation, lawsuits, and electoral politics; they continued to support President Lyndon Johnson even as he escalated the Vietnam War. They had gained a foothold in the Washington establishment, and remained committed to working within the system. At the other end of the spectrum stood the adherents of Black Power, who increasingly viewed America as irredeemable.

Only one leader retained credibility with both camps: Martin Luther King. Wilkins and Young had criticized King for his antiwar activity, but they nonetheless admired his devotion to nonviolence and his efforts for civil rights legislation. Black Power proponents thought King’s persistent belief in nonviolence was absurd, as was his willingness to work within America’s political system. But with King’s scathing critique of the Vietnam War, and with his campaign for the poor, he was regaining the “cautious respect” of radical activists. In his final months, he was attempting to broaden the civil rights insurgency.8

King knew that two worlds existed within black America. He realized that the chasm between them might already be too wide to traverse. But he felt that if anyone was going to try for unity, he had to be that person. In the fall of 1967, he urged African Americans to follow “the militant middle between riots on the one hand and weak and timid supplication for justice on the other hand.” King tried doggedly to heal the rift. “There must be somebody to communicate to the two worlds,” he said early in 1968. He wanted to build a “coalition of conscience,” as he called it, which would draw together Black Power radicals and mainstream civil rights advocates as well as white activists. King was not parting the waters; he was bridging them. Yet because of his death, the prospects for cooperation became even bleaker. The “militant middle” would be no longer viable.9

THE HEAVENS MIGHT Crack explores a wide range of responses to King’s assassination in the hours, days, weeks, and months afterward. Some whites celebrated King’s death, revealing the depths of a hatred that persisted late into the 1960s and well beyond. King’s assassination also propelled African Americans toward militancy and led directly to the nationwide rise of the Black Panthers. Yet many African Americans, as well as liberal whites, continued to revere King even in his last years. After his death, such citizens gathered to express their enduring commitment to an interracial America. They mourned and prayed and marched in cities large and small. King’s death also sparked massive protests on many college campuses. From Duke to Columbia, King’s assassination awakened privileged white students to the ongoing travails of African Americans. In addition, King’s death spurred legislation on Capitol Hill. It surely expedited the passage of the Fair Housing Act. Less well known, it helped to break a multiyear deadlock in the Senate Judiciary Committee on the issue of gun control. The assassination of King, coupled with Robert Kennedy’s two months later, led to the most expansive gun control legislation in American history.

This book offers a new perspective not only on King’s death, but also on several aspects of his life. While Americans tend to think of King in a purely national context, he stood—throughout his career—as an inspiration for freedom struggles across the world. In Africa and Asia, and on both sides of the Cold War, global citizens fashioned King into a hero for their causes. His death only amplified that dynamic. Once he was gone, they continued to shape King to fit their particular circumstances and enlisted his legacy in their own struggles.

After King’s death, mourners took to the streets in cities across the world. King’s murder also inspired a copycat assassination attempt in West Berlin, which intensified student rebellions throughout Germany. In Britain, King’s assassination worked to accelerate the passage of civil rights legislation. But the urban riots in America reverberated across the Atlantic; they helped to strengthen racial prejudices and to spur a wave of anti-immigrant activity in the United Kingdom. Before 1968, King often found a sanctuary overseas where he could escape the growing hatred at home. But King’s death ultimately helped to create a more hostile world, unleashing forces that turned some of those havens into places of enmity.10

This book also highlights King’s connection to his most loyal followers: ordinary African Americans. Mainstream American leaders denounced King’s antiwar speeches and his Poor People’s Campaign. Critics claimed that King—because of his international fame, his interest in foreign policy, his espousal of democratic socialism, or his unyielding commitment to nonviolence—had lost touch with the common folk. In reality, black workers wrapped King in a loving embrace. And in the wake of King’s death, many African Americans emphasized that link with their fallen leader.

The Heavens Might Crack concludes with the story of how the American public ultimately shaped King into a saint. By the end of the twentieth century, King had become a hero for all seasons. In the popular mind today, he remains an unthreatening figure who supposedly transcended race. King stands beyond reproach. White children are taught to identify with him. He is lionized and sanctified. We forget the deep hatred he attracted, right up to the end of his life. Many white Americans loathed King, not only in the South but across the country. They perceived him as a rabble-rouser and an agitator; some rejoiced in his death. Even among African Americans, King inspired skepticism and frustration as much as awe and adulation. Many African Americans viewed his messages of nonviolence and interracialism as no longer relevant. In the spring of 1968, King was by turns idolized and despised. And there were millions of Americans in between the two poles: their disposition toward King was far more complex, and more ambivalent, than we now realize.

King’s funeral, and the accompanying tributes to him, started a longer process of canonization. How so many Americans got from loathing to loving is less a tale of diminishing racism, and more about the ways King’s legacy has been sculpted and scrubbed.

In the end, The Heavens Might Crack shows how King’s death impacted America’s broader racial history. It made the struggle toward a multiracial America that much more difficult, dashing dreams for harmony both within the black freedom struggle and between whites and blacks.

This book is less about King than his impact on others. The moment of King’s death is so revealing because it crystallized his influence on Americans as well as others throughout the world. Citizens’ differing perceptions of him, and their understandings of what his life and career meant, burst into public view.

KING’S DEATH HELPED to make 1968 a traumatic year for America and the world—a year of barricades and bullets. His assassination occurred not just within the American context of the 1968 presidential election, the Poor People’s Campaign, the sanitation strike, and the growing antiwar movement, but also in a context of global revolution. Upon hearing the news of King’s death, many struggled to make sense of the event and feared the world that it augured. They could not yet fully see, though many could already anticipate, the tumult that awaited.

At the end of January, North Vietnamese forces waged a bold attack on American strongholds. The Tet Offensive shocked the American public and swelled the ranks of the antiwar movement. In Orangeburg, South Carolina, in February, police officers fired on a crowd of unarmed black students who were protesting segregation at a bowling alley. The “Orangeburg Massacre” stole the lives of three students from South Carolina State University. On April 23, two weeks after King’s funeral, students at Columbia University seized campus buildings for several days and were then bloodied by police officers. In June, at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, an assassin’s bullet struck down Robert Kennedy. Then in August, chaos engulfed the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Antiwar protesters gathered in Grant Park as delegates assembled inside the Hilton. Chicago police officers brutalized the protesters while the victims chanted, “The Whole World Is Watching!” The following month, feminists staged a dramatic demonstration outside the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City. Throughout the summer and fall, Black Panther chapters formed in cities across the country. Amid the unrest and protests, the blood and the tear gas, many believed that a new social order stood within reach.

Young people took to the streets throughout the world. Early in 1968, Czechs reveled in the Prague Spring. They celebrated their political and cultural freedom for several months before the Soviet military invaded and reasserted control. In May, millions of French workers and students organized a wave of protests that paralyzed the nation and captured the world’s imagination. Students staged rebellions at Tokyo University and the London School of Economics, the University of Madrid and the Free University of Berlin. They protested world events like the Vietnam War as well as campus issues and government policies in their own countries. In Mexico City, some 300,000 people marched to the Zocalo in August. Two months later, in Tlatelolco Plaza, riot police massacred student demonstrators. On every continent, the spirit of revolution filled the air.11

It was a year of so many world-historical crises, one after the other, that it can be difficult to isolate any single event and assign to it a causal power. King’s assassination was a powerful ingredient in the overall mix. It is hard to overstate what he meant, not only to African Americans but also to young activists around the world. King’s death seemed to show what fate would befall those who dared to commit themselves to social change. And if one who worked nonviolently had met a gruesome death, what would become of peaceful avenues for change? Once King had taken his leave from the world, revolution looked ever more attractive to those who remained.

FROM THE VANTAGE point of April 1968, one sees more clearly how death dogged King, hovered over him, marked and marred his waking moments. He sensed that somewhere along the journey for racial equality, he would sacrifice his own life. Hours before King’s death, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) aired an interview in which King told the BBC’s Gerald Priestland, “I live every day under the threat of death, and I have no illusions about it.” During the interview, which was recorded in December 1967, Priestland asked King whether he had “moments of apprehension that you may meet a violent death?” King replied:

I don’t have any apprehension about it, I’m very realistic about it and, I guess, philosophical.… And if something happens to me, physically or if I come to a violent end, I will go on with the faith that unmerited suffering is redemptive. And I don’t think the important thing really is how long you live, but how well you live. And I’m not concerned about my longevity or the quantity of my life, but the quality of my life… I want to remain busy, trying to do a good job for humanity and for my race and for the human race and for my children and for God.

That sensibility was crucial to King’s leadership, fortifying him through sacrifice and struggle.12

From the early days of the Montgomery bus boycott to the eve of his assassination, King regularly confronted the prospect of his own death. In January 1956, his Montgomery home was bombed with his wife and child inside. Two years later, a deranged black woman stabbed him in a Harlem department store. The letter opener she wielded was lodged just centimeters from King’s heart, his life preserved by a team of surgeons at Harlem Hospital. King spent many nights in the jails of the Deep South, and endured countless death threats. In response to a threat he received in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1964, King said, “If physical death is the price that I must pay to free my white brothers and sisters from a permanent death of the spirit, then nothing can be more redemptive.” Over the years, he had been violently attacked by many of those “white brothers and sisters,” from a white supremacist who punched him in an Alabama hotel to rock-throwing hordes in a Chicago park. The FBI urged King to take his own life. King ultimately learned to make peace with the possibility of his death. He was not unafraid, but undeterred. From those encounters with his own mortality, he derived a unique strength.13

In a sermon on February 4, 1968, exactly two months before his death, King confided in his Atlanta congregation: “Every now and then I think about my own death and I think about my own funeral.” He issued specific instructions to the worshippers at Ebenezer Baptist Church. He hoped the eulogist would highlight his service. “I’d like somebody to mention that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others.… I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. And I want you to be able to say that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked.” Above all, “I tried to love and serve humanity.” If the world would allow him that much, then “all of the other shallow things will not matter.… I just want to leave a committed life behind.” This speech was eventually replayed during King’s funeral.14

King’s repeated brushes with violence forced him to anticipate and even accept his own death; it was a price he had agreed to pay. He lived with that truth each day, as did his family. For those closest to him, one part of loving King was knowing they would lose him. That anticipation of loss, and the feeling of danger, was ever present.

For every badge of mainstream success King collected—the hundreds of honorary degrees and magazine covers, the meetings in the White House, the Nobel Peace Prize—he received an equal measure of scorn and revulsion. Yet he did not identify as an outcast. More precisely, he stood at odds with the way of things. King was unable to rest while suffering existed anywhere, a trait that lay at the heart of his genius. “Some people thought he was crazy,” reflected Vincent Harding, a former associate of King’s and a civil rights scholar. “King did not accept conventional wisdom, conventional patriotism. But maybe the ‘mad’ men and women have something to tell us.” This was why King terrified so many segregationists and racial conservatives. He refused to accept things as they were. Fully realizing the perils of this pursuit, he pressed on.15





  • "Comprehensive and illuminating...As we enter the second quarter of 2018, mid-term elections, an increasing sense of divisiveness through race, economic disparities, and the looming specter of war anywhere and everywhere as a means of distraction, Sokol's The Heavens Might Crack should serve as a critical reminder of what Americans are capable of. This work is an important addition to an already impressive library of civil rights narratives and Martin Luther King biographies."—PopMatters
  • "This striking and complex new work looks not so much at King himself as it does at the impact of his death and how it opened a wound in the country that has yet to heal. Sokol moves from the hours and days after his death to the present day, looking at Obama's election, the Black Lives Matter movement, and NFL player Colin Kaepernick's taking a knee during the national anthem."—Boston Globe
  • "Revealing... Sokol mines oral histories, books and contemporaneous news stories to pull together an account that reminds us that King was a radical who ignited passions both good and bad... While [the] broad outlines of King's story are well chronicled and fairly well known, the real punch in Sokol's book comes as it drives home the depth of the animus stirred by King and how it lingered in the months and years after his assassination."—WashingtonPost
  • "Shines a light on the unexplored aspects of King's life and work and provides new perspectives on his rich legacy. The Heavens Might Crack is a meticulously researched work by a historian whose scholarship remains unmatched."—Washington Book Review
  • "Drawing on archival sources, oral histories, interviews, and local, national, and even college newspapers, Sokol offers a richly detailed analysis of the impact of King's death on blacks and whites of all stripes... A revealing examination of how a 'courageous dissident' became a martyred saint."—Kirkus Reviews
  • "[A] fascinating look at King's importance as a revolutionary American humanitarian and his legacy... Sokol offers a well-written, new perspective on [King's] life here that all readers interested in twentieth-century history and the story of civil rights activism will find insightfully informative."—Booklist
  • "Sokol is an assured writer, deploying revealing, striking anecdotes... This book offers valuable yet painful insight into the paradox of King's stature throughout history."—Publishers Weekly
  • "Using a wide range of sources, from college newspapers to oral histories, Sokol dramatically demonstrates that even as King was canonized, factions split and fought over his legacy to advance their own visions and agendas."—National Book Review
  • "[The Heavens Might Crack] places King in a balanced perspective both at home and abroad. This even-handed account helps explain the irony that King, in his day, was largely unpopular outside of African American communities yet now has become a symbol of American democracy. A highly readable volume that will appeal to a spectrum of scholars, students, and the general public interested in African American politics."—Library Journal, starred review
  • "Jason Sokol has done it again!... In vivid prose rooted in deep, wide-ranging research, The Heavens Might Crack is an indispensable read for all who would comprehend the past and care for our future."—Harvard Sitkoff, emeritus professor of history, University of New Hampshire
  • "Jason Sokol's book is not a biography of MLK, it is something more.... A most powerful book: well written, deeply researched, thoughtful, and honest."—Nick Salvatore, Cornell University
  • "Coming at a moment when an open racist occupies the highest office in the land and white terrorists proudly march in our streets, Sokol's book helps us understand how we got here, and how the forces of hatred and bigotry that ended King's life were never fully extinguished but remain very much with us today. A must read."—Andrew W. Kahrl, author of Free the Beaches: The Story of Ned Coll and the Battle for America's Most Exclusive Shoreline
  • "The Heavens Might Crack is an important, timely, and invigorating addition to the vast literature on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. By examining the evolution of King's legacy after his death with great care and deft analysis, historian Jason Sokol offers new insights into the meaning of a life that continues to shape contemporary American democracy."—Peniel E. Joseph, author of Stokely: A Life
  • "Jason Sokol details with aching clarity how King's assassination and the urban uprisings of April 1968 sent shock waves across the landscapes of America's racial crisis and the world's revolts.... The heavens might have cracked, but Sokol's not-too-distant mirror shimmers with intensity and the recognition of King's continued relevance to our own travails." —Thomas F. Jackson, associate professor of history, University of North Carolina

On Sale
Mar 20, 2018
Page Count
352 pages
Basic Books

Jason Sokol

About the Author

Jason Sokol is the Arthur K. Whitcomb Associate Professor of History at the University of New Hampshire. The author of two critically acclaimed books on the history of the civil rights movement, Sokol lives in Newburyport, Massachusetts.

Learn more about this author