Book Talk: The Sword and the Shield: The Revolutionary Lives of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.
Peniel E. Joseph in conversation with David Waters
To most Americans, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. represent contrasting ideals: self-defense vs. nonviolence, black power vs. civil rights, the sword vs. the shield. The struggle for black freedom is wrought with the same contrasts. While nonviolent direct action is remembered as an unassailable part of American democracy, the movement's militancy is either vilified or erased outright. In The Sword and the Shield, Peniel E. Joseph upends these misconceptions and reveals a nuanced portrait of two men who, despite markedly different backgrounds, inspired and pushed each other throughout their adult lives. This is a strikingly revisionist biography, not only of Malcolm and Martin, but also of the movement and era they came to define.
“[As] Peniel E. Joseph argues in his incisive, smartly written new book, The Sword and the Shield, history has turned both men into caricatures. We’ve lost sight of King’s true radicalism. We’ve lost sight of Malcolm’s more moderate approach to black nationalism that emerged after his break with the Nation of Islam. And, in Mr. Joseph’s view, we’ve lost sight of how each man shaped the other.” —Jonathan Eig, The Wall Street Journal
Peniel E. Joseph is the Barbara Jordan professor of political values and ethics at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin. He has written several previous books on African American history, including Stokely: A Life. He lives in Austin, Texas