Monday, January 21, 2013

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

It's Martin Luther King, Jr. Day! Here are some excellent nonfiction titles about King and the Civil Rights actions he was involved in.


King: The Photobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Charles Johnson and Bob Adelman. Sadly out of print, this spectacular and arresting photobiography of Dr. King is well worth tracking down.

King: A Comics Biography by Ho Che Anderson. The way Anderson couples his art with text make for a nuanced, complete-ist, and complicated portrait of Dr. King. Sometimes in black-and-white, sometimes in color, this is one of the those books to show to people that dismiss comic books and prove them wrong. This edition collects the three original volumes, as well as a ton of supplemental material.

A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. edited by Clayborne Carson. This collection has a dozen of King's speeches. Each one has a lengthy introduction placing it in context of the time and the greater meaning today.

A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. edited by James M. Washington. Ok, at nearly 800 pages, this one may turn off many teens, but it is a great collection of his writings and speeches.


Marching For Freedom: Walk Together Children and Don't You Grow Weary by Elizabeth Partridge. Filled with stunning photographs and gorgeous design, this book documents the events leading up to, and the Voting Rights March from Selma to Montgomery. While Dr. King led the march, the book focuses on the children who marched in Selma and to Montgomery, stepping up where the adults were unable or unwilling.

We've Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March by Cynthia Levinson. Another one that focuses on the role that children played, this one covers the 1963 Birmingham campaign organized by Dr. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Levinson focuses on 4 children to show the different feelings and factions in Birmingham's African-American community.

Marching to the Mountaintop: How Poverty, Labor Fights and Civil Rights Set the Stage for Martin Luther King Jr's Final Hours by Ann Bausum. In 1968, Memphis's sanitation workers went on strike. Bausum describes the horrific and unfair working conditions, as well as the on-the-job deaths that finally pushed them to action. Dr. King became involved in the strike, delivering his famous "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech about the strike. It was his last speech-- he was murdered the next day.

Freedom Walkers: The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott by Russel Freedman. Freedman gives much needed depth and breadth to a story that's been well-covered. In addition to focusing on the every day stories of those who boycotted and didn't end up with their names in the history books, he also gives a good look at Dr. King's role in organizing and boycott and court cases to end bus segregation in Montgomery.


1968 by Michael Kaufman. 1968 was a watershed year in American history. Kaufman covers many events of the year, including Dr. King's assassination, but also the DNC protests, the Prague Spring, the moon landing, the Mexico City Olympics and other events that year. Fascinating, I include it on this list to add greater context.

A Dream of Freedom : The Civil Rights Movement from 1954 to 1968 by Diane McWhorter. Starting with Brown vs. Board of Education and ending with Dr. King's death, McWhorter offers an overview of the Civil Rights movement.

We Shall Overcome: The History of the Civil Rights Movement As It Happened by Herb Boyd. This is another book that's tragically out-of-print. In addition to the numerous photographs that illustrate the text, the book comes with 2 CDs so readers can hear songs and speeches in this comprehensive history of the Civil Rights movement.

I'll have more Civil Rights books next month, so don't worry, but what are your favorites on Dr. King and the campaigns he helped lead?

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