«Making a Way Out of No Way»

Martin Luther King’s Sermonic Proverbial Rhetoric

by Wolfgang Mieder (Author)
©2011 Textbook 551 Pages


In barely forty years of life Martin Luther King (1929-1968) distinguished himself as one of the greatest social reformers of modern times: civil rights leader, defender of nonviolence in the struggle of desegregation, champion of the poor, anti-war proponent, and broad-minded visionary of an interrelated world of free people. His many verbal and written communications in the form of sermons, speeches, interviews, letters, essays, and several books are replete with Bible proverbs as «Love your enemies», «He who lives by the sword shall perish by the sword», and «Man does not live by bread alone» as well as folk proverbs as «Time and tide wait for no man», «Last hired, first fired», «No gain without pain», and «Making a way out of no way». He also delighted in citing quotations that have become proverbs, to wit «No man is an island», «All men are created equal», and «No lie can live forever». King recycles these bits of traditional wisdom in various contexts, varying his proverbial messages as he addresses the multifaceted issues of civil rights. His rhetorical prowess is thus informed to a considerable degree by his effective use of his repertoire of proverbs which he frequently uses as leitmotifs or amasses into set pieces of fixed phrases to be employed repeatedly.


ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
African American Bible civil rights movement folklore Martin Luther King linguistics metaphor oratory politics proverb religion rhetoric sermon speech variation communication quotation
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2010. XIV, 551 pp.

Biographical notes

Wolfgang Mieder (Author)

Wolfgang Mieder is Professor of German and Folklore at the University of Vermont, where he served for thirty-one years as the chairperson of the Department of German and Russian. He is an internationally acknowledged proverb scholar, the author of the two-volume International Bibliography of Paremiology and Phraseology (2009), and the founding editor of Proverbium: Yearbook of International Proverb Scholarship (since 1984). His numerous books and articles are concerned with cultural, folkloristic, historical, linguistic, literary, philological, social, and political topics. Among his books related to the present volume are The Politics of Proverbs: From Traditional Wisdom to Proverbial Stereotypes (1997), The Proverbial Abraham Lincoln (2000), «No Struggle, No Progress»: Frederick Douglass and His Proverbial Struggle for Civil Rights (2001), «Call a Spade a Spade»: From Classical Phrase to Racial Slur (2002), Proverbs: A Handbook (2004), «Proverbs Are the Best Policy»: Folk Wisdom and American Politics (2005), «Proverbs Speak Louder Than Words»: Folk Wisdom in Art, Culture, Folklore, History, Literature, and Mass Media (2008), and «Yes We Can»: Barack Obama’s Proverbial Rhetoric (2009).


Title: «Making a Way Out of No Way»