Martin Luther King Day is a national day of service. Make part of your commitment to bettering the world by learning more about his legacy and work with one of these movies or books. Some of them may even challenge what you think you know about MLK Jr.
To Shape a New World: Essays on the Political Philosophy of Martin Luther King, Jr. Edited by Tommie Shelby and Brandon M. Terry.
This collection of essays challenges the mainstream ways that people think about his writings. This book focuses on MLK’s lesser known writings on civil disobedience, poverty, political theology, labor and welfare rights, and more. In reading these critical engagements, you’ll learn much more about what MLK Jr. fought for in his career.
Alabama v. King: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Criminal Trial that Launched the Civil Rights Movement by Dan Abrams and Fred D. Gray
Get a new perspective on the trial that put Martin Luther King Jr. at the front of the Civil Rights Movement. Fred D. Gray, the defense lawyer for Martin Luther King Jr., tells the story of just how far white officials in Alabama would go to stop King’s efforts. You’ll learn much more about what happened inside and outside the courtroom from Gray’s perspective.
King: A Life by Jonathan Eig
If you want a deep-dive into who Martin Luther King Jr. was both in public and private, this is the biography for you. Published May 16, 2023, Jonathan Eig includes the recently declassified FBI files as well as a multi-faceted look at the radical, courageous, and imperfect man that MLK Jr. was. Learn about the man behind the speech and pick up this book!
To the Promised Land: Martin Luther King and the Fight for Economic Justice by Michael K. Honey
Get a great overview of the civil rights movement from the lens of the work Martin Luther King Jr. did for the poor and working classes. Many of the issues that MLK worked to resolved are still prevalent today, and this book will give you a great foundation to understand today’s current economic problems for People of Color.
The Sword and the Shield: the Revolutionary Lives of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. by Peniel E. Joseph
You may know Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. as polar opposites in the civil rights movement, but the truth is much more complicated. By reading this book, you’ll get to see all the nuances of these two men’s ideals and find that they have much more in common than you might think.
Nine Days: the Race to Save Martin Luther King Jr.’s Life and Win the 1960 Election by Stephen Kendrick
If you’re into political thrillers, this is the book for you. Three weeks before the presidential election of 1960 between Richard Nixon and JFK, Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested at an Atlanta, Georgia sit-in. This is a short read on a very important nine days that MLK Jr. spent in prison and how the two candidates’ reactions helped and hurt their campaigns.
Coretta, My Life, My Love, My Legacy by Coretta Scott King as told by Rev. Dr. Barbara Reynolds
The woman behind the man, Coretta Scott King, was a pivotal part of the Civil Rights Movement both while her husband was alive and after. Though MLK Jr. wanted her to stay home to care for their family, she was never on the sidelines. In this full biography of her life, you’ll learn about the committed, brave, and outstanding work that Coretta Scott King dedicated her entire life to.
You Have to Be Prepared to Die Before You Can Begin to Live: Ten weeks in Birmingham That Changed America by Paul Kix
In this book by journalist, Paul Kix, you’ll learn about the 10 week campaign in 1963 led by the Southern Christian leadership Conference in Birmingham, Alabama. Follow the four leaders, Martin Luther King Jr., Wyatt Walker, Fred Shuttlesowrth, and James Bevel, as they fight to end segregation. As you’re taken through these thrilling pages, you’ll find yourself making comparisons to the social justice fights of today.
The Seminarian: Martin Luther King Jr. Comes of Age by Patrick Parr
If you want an intimate look at MLK Jr., this coming of age book will make him seem more real than ever before. The man we know as Martin Luther King Jr. was once a 19 year old prankster striving to become a preacher at Crozer Theological Seminary, surrounded by older, white seminarians. You’ll follow his seminary journey as he gives sermons in Philadelphia, plagiarizes his work, and becomes student body president.
The Kneeling Man: My Father’s Life as a Black Spy Who Witnessed the Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. by Leta McCollough Seletzky
If you’re interested in the ways in which the FBI monitors activists and radicals, this is the book for you! Leta McCollough Seletzky’s father was an undercover cop infiltrating the Invaders, Memphis’s Black Power activist group, when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. As Seletzky uncovers more about her father’s life, you’ll also learn much more about how and why MLK Jr. was monitored by the FBI and other government powers.
The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation by Anna Malaika Tubbs
Motherhood is challenging alone, but consider how difficult it was to be a Black mother with Black sons during a time of Jim Crow laws and segregation. Without the teachings of their mothers — Berdis Baldwin, Alberta King, and Louise Little — James Baldwin, MLK Jr., and Malcolm X, wouldn’t have had the fundamental beliefs that sent them on their social justice journeys. Read this book to learn about the powerful women that raised these powerful men.
Killing King: Racial Terrorists, James Earl Ray, and the Plot to Assassinate Martin Luther King Jr. by Stuart Wexler
Love a good conspiracy? Stuart Wexler’s analysis of declassified FBI files and previously unknown sources shows a vast network of racist terrorists that were dedicated to killing MLK Jr. Dive deep into the evidence that Wexler presents that shows that while James Earl Ray killed MLK Jr., the KKK may have ultimately organized his demise.
Prefer to watch something for MLK Day? Check out these DVDs below!
FBI director J. Edgar Hoover believed that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., posed a threat to American ways and ideals. With the FBI’s declassified documents, this documentary shows the FBI’s crusade to erode and discredit MLK’s civil rights movements.
I Am MLK Jr. (2018)
This documentary, filmed on location at churches where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached, interviewed a variety of people from activists to celebrities. You’ll get a full range of perspectives on the life and work of MLK Jr and a deeper understanding of how his work has impacted society today.
If you prefer a dramatization with a star-studded cast, Selma, features Oprah Winfrey, David Oyelowo, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Carmen Ejogo in a stunning performance of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches. After four Black girls walking out of 16th Street Baptist Church are killed by a bomb set by the KKK and a series of failed attempts to get the vote for Black folks, Martin Luther King Jr., Hosea Williams, and John Lewis organize a protest march. You’ll be enthralled from the first minute to the last of this film.
Martin Luther King: “I have a dream” (2005)
The most memorable of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches, borrow this DVD of the full "I Have a Dream." Watch as he gives his this address on the steps of the White House on August 28, 1963 to a crowd of activists, supporters, and news casters.