Augsburg Fortress

Extremist for Love: Martin Luther King Jr., Man of Ideas and Nonviolent Social Action

Extremist for Love: Martin Luther King Jr., Man of Ideas and Nonviolent Social Action

In spite of extensive research and publishing on King, insufficient attention has been given to the convergence of ideas and action in his life. In an era where people are often sorted into the categories of "thinker" and "doer,” King stands out—a rare mix of the deeply profound thinker and intellect who put the fruit of that reflection into the service of direct social action.
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  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781451470208
  • eBook ISBN 9781451480276
  • Dimensions 5.5 x 8.5
  • Pages 250
  • Publication Date January 1, 2014



Foreword by Lewis V. Baldwin


Part 1: Familial Roots of Protest and Nonviolence

1. Paternal Grandparents (James and Delia King)

2. Maternal Grandparents (Adam Daniel and Jennie C. Williams)

3. Parents (Martin Luther and Alberta King)

Part 2: Formal and Intellectual Influences

4. The Walter Rauschenbusch Factor

5. The Christian Realism of Reinhold Niebuhr

Part 3: A Preacher and Some Women Pave the Way

6. Vernon Napoleon Johns: “God’s Bad Boy”

7. Black Women Trailblazers

Part 4: Christian Love and Gandhian Nonviolence

8. Gandhian Influence and the Formal Elements of King’s Nonviolence

9. Training in Nonviolence

Part 5: Where Do We Go From Here?

10. Enduring Racism: What Can Be done to Keep Hope Alive?



“Rufus Burrow has shown that the roots of King’s ideas, nonviolent social protest, and socio-ethical practice are grounded in a family deeply rooted in black southern culture and the black Baptist church. His book convincingly argues that many watered those roots along the way, but those who planted the seeds and did the early nurturing were members of King’s family, educational, and faith communities. Burrow takes great care in helping us to see that the social gospel, Christian realist, and social protest influences on King provided the perfect soil for the formal influences of Rauschenbusch, Niebuhr, and Gandhi.”
—Reginald C. Holmes
New Covenant Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Denver, CO
“If you are interested in the fundamental ideas and ideals that shaped Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., then you need look no further than this spectacular book. This authoritative work is the most comprehensive to date on King as a person whose deep intellectual ideas and ideals were translated into transformational action that has altered the course of human history. Rufus Burrow highlights many aspects of King’s intellectual influences others tend to ignore or only present in a cursory manner. This is a landmark text for King scholarship and social ethics. You owe it to yourself to read this book!”
—Nathaniel Holmes, Jr.
Florida Memorial University

"Rufus Burrow Jr. offers the most comprehensive and detailed account to date of formal and informal influences on the ethical thought and social actions of Martin Luther King Jr. Excellent treatment of the contributions of his family, the black church, the black community, Rauschenbusch, Niebuhr, Personalism, Gandhi and other philosophical and theological resources to King’s abundant repertoire of ideas and ideals for liberation work. A detailed account of King’s pilgrimage to nonviolence, nonviolence training, and a conclusive description of ways his nonviolence may be effective in the work of liberation today. There is research par excellence in primary resources with substantial footnotes as Dr. Burrow clears up many misconceptions of Dr. King’s thought and meticulously sets forth his own conclusions. I would highly recommend this book for any course on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr."
Ervin Smith
Methodist Theological School in Ohio

"Burrow does the painstaking work of delineating where King was at certain points in his life, without coming across as plodding, laborious, or tedious. Instead, he interweaves fabrics of King's heritage, thought, and action to create a tapestry of his ontological subject with such biographical accuracy and critical thoroughness that we enter into a fuller understanding of the real man scarcely found elsewhere. The poignancy and profundity of King's praxis that Burrow articulates augment the reader’s ability to reach a new appreciation of King with matchless depth and insightfulness.  It is a must-read for any student of the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.!"
Michael D. Blackwell
University of Northern Iowa


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