Honoring Martin Luther King Jr.: The Man, The Message, The Movement

Martin Luther King Jr., along with many other key players of the civil rights movement, have a cemented place in posterity and are deserving of our time and attention. It is our responsibility to be informed, to be constantly learning, and to be capable of sharing our knowledge in the attempt for a more civil landscape. Forward movement always begins with education. To help with those steps, here is a diverse list of what to read, what to watch, and what to listen to in order to arm yourself with knowledge and understanding, the elements required for change. 

What to read: 

A People’s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn. With clear prose backed by scholarly research, this book recounts a history from the perspectives of women, African Americans, Native Americans, the factory workers, lower-class, and working poor. It shines a light on the history that was all too frequently omitted in traditional textbooks. Originally published in 1980, A People’s History of the United States has become a staple on many bookshelves.

Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop, by Alice Faye Duncan. A children’s book that tells the story of the Memphis sanitation strike of 1968, where Martin Luther King Jr. took his final stand before being assassinated. Written through a combination of poetry and prose, this story highlights not only Dr. King’s efforts during that point in history, but the work and coming together of community during the movement. 

What to watch: 

I Am MLK Jr. This 2018 documentary showcases Dr. King’s life, his work, his death, and the many parallels between the civil rights movement of his time and the Black Lives Matter movement of the present. With commentary from activists, celebrities, and political leaders such as Diane Nash, Reverend Al Sharpton, Shaun King, Carmelo Anthony, and the late, great John Lewis, this powerful documentary tells the stories that are needing to be heard at the forefront. Directed by John Barbisan and Michael Hamilton.

Available on Amazon Prime

Soundtrack For a Revolution A 2009 documentary that takes viewers through the civil rights movement by way of music. The focus of the film is centered on the power and impact of music had during the time of protesting, organizing, and rising up. Directors Dan Sturman and Bill Guttentag have assembled heavy-hitting musicians such as The Roots, Blind Boys of Alabama, Mary Mary, Wyclef Jean, and John Legend to create a beautifully deep soundtrack to a monumental time in history.

Available on Amazon Prime and iTunes

I Am Not Your Negro An award-winning documentary born out of and based on James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript Remember This House, which was set to be a personal account of his ties and friendships with revolutionary civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr., Malcom X, and Medgar Evers. Directed by Raoul Peck and narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, this 2016 film explores the extensive history of racism in the U.S., as well as Baldwin’s personal observations of this nation’s history. 

Available on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime

What to listen to:

Interview with MLK Jr, 1964. Pulitzer prize-winning poet and novelist Robert Penn Warren interviewed Martin Luther King Jr. in Atlanta, in 1964. While working on his book Who Speaks For the Negro?, Warren was traveling the country to speak with civil rights leaders and organizers. This interview only aired for the first time in 2006, and while we are no stranger to the lilt and cadence of King’s powerful speeches, this interview allows us to hear him in a more intimate setting, resulting in thoughtful, intelligent, and insightful conversation. 

Interview with Martin Luther King, Jr., March 18, 1964