Voice of Deliverance

The Language of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Its Sources

Author Keith Miller

Martin Luther King Jr.'s words defined, mobilized and embodied much of the American civil rights movement, crystallizing the hope and demand for racial justice in America. His powerful sermons and speeches were unique in their ability to unite blacks and whites in the quest for reform. In the first full-length study of King's language, Keith D. Miller explores his words to find the intellectual roots, spiritual resonances and actual sources of the speeches and essays that continue to reverberate in America's mind and conscience.

Miller argues that King's skillful borrowing and blending of the black oral and white written traditions was in fact the key to his language and to his effectiveness. It made his message of hope and deliverance accessible to all people and enabled blacks and whites to move in harmony to action and commitment.


Keith Miller is a professor of English in writing, rhetorics and literacies at Arizona State University.

Praise for this book

Miller has written a complex, convincing analysis of the sources of King's major sermons and public works. Miller argues that King borrowed ideas, patterns, words, even whole paragraphs from two main sources: white Protestant ministers' radio sermons and the traditions of the African American folk pulpit. To Miller, this was not plagiarism, but perfectly consistent with the American homiletic tradition. Miller's study provides a fascinating counterpoint to recent attacks on King's originality. Highly recommended for all major libraries.

A.O. Edmonds Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana
Cover of Voice of Deliverance by Keith Miller
Date published
Free Press

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