Martin Luther King, Jr.
is the kind of hero whose story inspires Americans of all ages,
8-year-olds and 80-year-olds, generations past and generations to come.
Accordingly, authors have used his life as the subject matter for
everything from picture books to general interest biographies for
adults, from essay collections about his impact on race in America to
academic interrogations of his rhetoric. The more one learns about MLK, the more there is to appreciate.
In honor of the civil rights leader‘s birthday, here are five books on his life and legacy for readers of all ages. Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
By Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Bryan Collier
This picture book blends King’s quotes with original writing to tell
his life story to readers ages five to eight, accompanied by vibrant
paint and cut-paper collage illustrations. It won a Caldecott Honor and a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor. Get it now
My Life, My Love, My Legacy
By Coretta Scott King, as told to the Rev. Dr. Barbara Reynolds
Late in her life, King’s widow recounted stories of their marriage,
their roles in the civil rights movement, and the aftermath of his
assassination to the writer and minister Dr. Barbara Reynolds, now
documented in this new book out Tuesday. She also shares details of her
work on the King Center and the mission to instate a national holiday in
honor of MLK. Get it now
The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.
By Martin Luther King Jr., edited by Clayborne Carson
After King’s untimely death in 1968, King scholar Clayborne Carson
pulled together the civil rights leader’s many writings and speeches and
organized them into an autobiographical form. It’s an unusual genesis
for an autobiography, but one that pays thoughtful homage to the giant
of American rhetoric. Get it now
Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference
By David J. Garrow
Garrow won the Pulitzer Prize in Biography
for this volume consolidating information from more than 700 interviews
with King’s allies, associates and opponents, as well as access to his
FBI files. Get it now
Martin Luther King: The Inconvenient Hero
By Vincent Harding
The scholar and activist muses on King’s legacy in the decades after
his death in a series of essays, reflecting on how King’s message
changed in his later years and why Americans focus on certain elements
of his story. Get it now
Martin Luther King, Jr.: The Last Interview: and Other Conversations
The popular “Last Interview Series” assembles notable
interviews from prominent figures (including, yes, their final major
interview before death). This collection includes a 1964 conversation
with Robert Penn Warren and King’s final interview, just 10 days before
his assassination, on stage at the convention of the Rabbinical
Assembly. Get it now
Martin Luther King, Jr., (January 15, 1929-April 4, 1968) was born Michael Luther King,
Jr., but later had his name changed to Martin. His grandfather began the
family's long tenure as pastors of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta,
serving from 1914 to 1931; his father has served from then until the present,
and from 1960 until his death Martin Luther acted as co-pastor.
Luther attended segregated public schools in Georgia, graduating from high
school at the age of fifteen; he received the B. A. degree in 1948 from
Morehouse College, a distinguished Negro institution of Atlanta from which both
his father and grandfather had graduated. After three years of theological
study at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania where he was elected
president of a predominantly white senior class, he was awarded the B.D. in
1951. With a fellowship won at Crozer, he enrolled in graduate studies at
Boston University, completing his residence for the doctorate in 1953 and
receiving the degree in 1955.
Boston he met and married Coretta Scott, a young woman of uncommon intellectual
and artistic attainments. Two sons and two daughters were born into the family. In 1954, Martin Luther King became pastor of the Dexter
Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Always a strong worker for civil
rights for members of his race, King was, by this time, a member of the
executive committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored
People, the leading organization of its kind in the nation.
He was ready, then, early in
December, 1955, to accept the leadership of the first great Negro nonviolent
demonstration of contemporary times in the United States, the bus boycott
described by Gunnar Jahn in his presentation speech in honor of the laureate.
The boycott lasted 382 days. On December 21, 1956, after the Supreme Court of
the United States had declared unconstitutional the laws requiring segregation
on buses, Negroes and whites rode the buses as equals.
During these days of
boycott, King was arrested, his home was bombed, he was subjected to personal
abuse, but at the same time he emerged as a Negro leader of the first rank.
In 1957 he was elected
president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization
formed to provide new leadership for the now burgeoning civil rights movement.
The ideals for this organization he took from Christianity; its operational
techniques from Gandhi. In the eleven-year period between 1957 and 1968,
King traveled over six
million miles and spoke over twenty-five hundred times, appearing wherever
there was injustice, protest, and action; and meanwhile he wrote five books as
well as numerous articles. In these years, he led a massive protest in
Birmingham, Alabama, that caught the attention of the entire world, providing
what he called a coalition of conscience. and inspiring his "Letter from a
Birmingham Jail", a manifesto of the Negro revolution; he planned the drives
in Alabama for the registration of Negroes as voters; he directed the peaceful
march on Washington, D.C., of 250,000 people to whom he delivered his address,
"l Have a Dream", he conferred with President John F. Kennedy and
campaigned for President Lyndon B. Johnson; he was arrested upwards of twenty
times and assaulted at least four times; he was awarded five honorary degrees;
was named Man of the Year byTime magazine in 1963; and became not only the
symbolic leader of American blacks but also a world figure.
At the age of thirty-five, Martin Luther King,
Jr., was the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize. When notified
of his selection, he announced that he would turn over the prize money of
$54,123 to the furtherance of the civil rights movement.
On the evening of April 4, 1968, while standing on
the balcony of his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was to lead a
protest march in sympathy with striking garbage workers of that city, he was
In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies,
but the silence of our friends. Martin Luther King,