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Martin Luther King and the Rhetoric of Freedom
The Exodus Narrative in America's Struggle for Civil Rights

By Gary S. Selby

Martin Luther King and the Rhetoric of Freedom
Paperback, 225 pages $34.95
Published: 15th February 2008
ISBN: 9781602580169
Format: 9in x 6in

Subjects: All History, All Religious Studies, All Rhetoric Studies, American History, Church History, Preaching, Rhetoric & Religion

In this beautifully written book, Gary Selby shows how Martin Luther King, Jr. used the biblical story of Exodus to motivate African Americans in their struggle for freedom from racial oppression. Through an examination of King's major speeches, Selby illuminates the ways in which King drew from the Exodus narrative to offer his listeners a structure that explained their present circumstances, urged united action, and provided the conviction that they would succeed. Selby explains how King constructed a symbolic framework for interpreting the setbacks of the Civil Rights movement, even as he challenged them to remain faithful to the cause.



1 Rhetoric and Social Movements

2 Let My People Go: The Exodus in African American Cultural History

3 The Red Sea Has Opened: King’s “Death of Evil on the Seashore” Sermon

4 Broken Aloose from Egypt: The Exodus in King’s Montgomery Bus Boycott Rhetoric

5 Reaching Out for Canaan: King’s “Birth of a New Nation” Sermon

6 I’ve Been to the Mountaintop: King as the Movement’s Moses

7 Keep the Movement Moving: The Birmingham Protest





Selby provides an extended rhetorical analysis of how the Exodus narrative informed the Civil Rights Movement, particularly as the narrative was voiced in the rhetoric of Martin Luther King Jr... Recommended.


This book surprises the reader with discoveries that make its theme come alive with a renewed appreciation for how rhetorical subjects are embedded inextricably in the human experience. The writing is simple, clear, engaging, and often even exciting. Gary Selby helps us to grasp the power of rhetoric as a lived, experienced phenomenon. His work draws out King's use of Exodus in a manner that provides unsuspected depth of meaning and understanding.

—Michael Osborn, University of Memphis, Professor Emeritus, Department of Communication

Gary S. Selby is the Blanche E. Seaver Professor of Communication at Seaver College, Pepperdine University.

Publication Details:

 Paperback , 225 pages
 9in x 6in

  LAN015000, POL004000, REL084000
 Baylor University Press

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