What To Read On MLK Jr. Day

by Zoraida Córdova

Martin Luther King Jr's legacy has not only been upheld by his family, but by the people he inspired in his life and the years since his death. But getting Washington D.C. to pass the bill recognizing Dr. King's birthday as a holiday took persistent work. Two months after Dr. King's death, Coretta Scott King founded the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Center, also known as the King Center, and she began preparations for the first annual observance of Dr. King's birthday.

But she faced opposition from Congress along the way, and it took 15 years to create a federal holiday in his memory. Eventually, in 1983, Martin Luther King Jr. Day was made a federal holiday by President Ronald Reagan. Eleven years later, President Bill Clinton signed "The Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Holiday And Service Acts," which expanded the mission of the holiday as a day for community service. This isn't just a holiday to sleep in. This is a holiday for action.

We should never be allowed to forget Dr. King and what the Civil Right's Movement stood for — especially now. The fight for freedom and equality didn't end with Dr. King, and his work must be continued daily. Read these books to start, then get out there and do something:


'I Have a Dream' by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. King's famous speech which he have on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

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'The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks' by Cynthia Levinson

At 9-years-old, Audrey Faye Hendricks was the youngest known person to be arrested for a civil rights protest in Birmingham. This picture book is the tale of a girl who spoke up, and it shows that you're never too young to make a difference.

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'March' by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

The graphic novel trilogy depicting the Civil Rights Movement through Congressman John Lewis eyes. The third book is the winner of the 2016 National Book Award for Young People's Literature, and this is the first graphic novel to receive a Robert F. Kennedy Book Award.

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'Citizen: An American Lyric' by Claudia Rankine

From the publisher: "A provocative meditation on race.... Citizen is a powerful testament to the individual and collective effects of racism in our contemporary, often named "post-race" society."

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'Let the Trumpet Sound: A Life of Martin Luther King, Jr.' by Stephen B. Oates

Stephen B. Oates details the life Dr. King in this expansive biography.

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'All American Boys' by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

A 2016 Coretta Scott King Author Honor book and the recipient of the Walter Dean Myers Award for Outstanding Children’s Literature, All American Boys is a must-read for all teenagers and an essential book for prompting conversation about violence and racial division.

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'Strength to Love' by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. King wrote these essays about faith, love, and nonviolent change during the Civil Rights Movement.

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'Democracy in Black' by Eddie S. Glaude, Jr.

A book that dissects race in America, and discusses happens after our first Black president.

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'Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer' by Carole Boston Weatherford

In 1963 Fannie Lou Hammer was nearly beaten to death on the way home from an activist workshop. She was one of the founders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and worked tirelessly for African American voting rights. This is her story.

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'My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.' by Martin Luther King III

What was it like having Dr. King as your father? This illustrated memoir depicts Dr. King through the eyes of his eldest son.

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'Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?' by Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. King's final manuscript where "he lays out his thoughts, plans, and dreams for America's future, including the need for better jobs, higher wages, decent housing, and quality education."

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