In the aftermath of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, riots broke out in 110 cities across the country. For five days, Atlanta braced for chaos while preparing to host King’s funeral. An unlikely alliance of former student radicals, the middle-aged patrician mayor, the no-nonsense police chief, black ministers, white churchgoers, Atlanta’s business leaders, King’s grieving family members, and his stunned SCLC colleagues worked to keep Atlanta safe, honor a murdered hero, and host the tens of thousands who came to pay tribute. On April 9, 1968, 150,000 mourners took part in the largest funeral ever staged for a private U.S. citizen. The ceremonies took place against a national backdrop of war protests and presidential politics and in a still-segregationist South where Georgia’s governor surrounded the state capitol with troops.
Burial for a King (Scribner, 2011) is an account of this landmark week. It encapsulates King’s legacy, America’s shifting attitude toward race, and the emergence of Atlanta as a new kind of Southern city.
What people have said about the book
“A fast-paced narrative so vivid and poignant that you may catch yourself feeling almost as if you are eavesdropping. … the fact that I have difficulty reading its pages is actually a testament to the power of the author’s uncommon skill. Burns literally has opened a window into the past.”
—Andrew Young, former mayor of Atlanta and executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)
“A gripping piece of work. Some of Rebecca Burns’s voices belong to friends, which made it haunting, but many of them were fresh discoveries to me. This book is a great tribute.”
—Taylor Branch, Pulitzer Prize winning author of the America in the King Years trilogy.
“Day by day, hour by hour, step by step, the behind-the-scenes dramaturgy of the national week of mourning for Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. comes vividly alive in Burial for a King. … Burns deftly shows, the suites and streets of Atlanta found common ground in a calming field that explains Atlanta’s modern-day transcendence.”
—Hank Klibanoff, Pulitzer Prize–winning co-author of The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation
” … shows us indelible scenes from that fraught time.”
—The Wall Street Journal
“An affecting blow-by-blow of events during a week of national mourning”
“A compelling look at a pivotal time in the U.S.”
“… conveys a you-are-there quality: History comes alive.”
—The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
One of Ten Titles to Pick Up Right Now
—O, The Oprah Magazine
One of the 11 Best Books of 2011