... immensely valuable ... One of the great strengths of this book is the detail with which Joseph supports his thesis ... this biography’s dual nature, with its close comparison and contrast of King’s and Malcolm’s journeys to their ultimate fates, enhances our understanding of how these men came to their respective conclusions about the state of the world, and how to change it ... In a way, The Sword and the Shield answers the old question about whether the times make the person or the person makes the times ... makes one wonder how the two men would have deployed their talents in our less than heroic age.
Joseph convincingly argues that the two leaders’ overarching goals, however differently expressed, were inseparable ... Essential to Joseph’s argument in The Sword and the Shield is his careful debunking of not just the typically overstated conflicts between King and Malcolm X, but also the reductive images that distorted perceptions of them in their own time and dilute their messages today ... Joseph quite successfully navigates the inherent challenges of dealing with the political mythologies that muddy the waters of Malcolm X scholarship ... delivers both strong storytelling and exemplary history, dismantling popular distortions of its subjects, and arriving at a nuanced and profoundly revealing portrayal of converging visions that informed, challenged, and sharpened each other even as their proponents seemed publicly and irrevocably at odds.
... [an] excellent joint history ... Joseph retraces some ground that will be familiar to anyone who has read those books, but for the most part he smartly zeros in on the relatively brief period during which King and Malcolm actively influenced each other, even if they had no personal contact. It is a fascinating story, full of subtle twists and turns, that unfolded in three phase.