Honoring Martin Luther King Jr.’s Voice

Martin Luther King Jr. was born in segregated Atlanta, Georgia, in 1929. His journey as a minister and civil rights activist began when he was still young, and it led him through one of the most tumultuous times in American history. King fully understood the power of words and the importance of voice in non-violent resistance.

Martin Luther King Jr. stands speaking with his arm raised up.
Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons

Many of King’s speeches and sermons can be read online, but we encourage you to also read these full-length works to have a comprehensive understanding of America’s greatest civil rights leader.

1) Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story
Introduction by Clayborne Carson

Stride Toward Freedom is King’s account of the Montgomery bus boycott. The boycott came on the tail of Claudette Colvin’s arrest and Emmet Till’s murder. King describes in great detail the conditions of African Americans who lived in Alabama and the boycott, including the planning stage and the boycott’s aftermath.

2) Strength to Love
Foreword by Coretta Scott King

Strength to Love is a collection of King’s sermons; most of them discuss race and segregation in the U.S. Many of these sermons were drafted while King was jailed, and he continued to edit the collection after its initial publication.

3) Why We Can’t Wait
Introduction by Dorothy Cotton

The focus on Why We Can’t Wait is the year 1963, when the “Negro Revolution” truly began. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) began non-violent campaigns against Birmingham’s segregation laws. King was later arrested and wrote his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” which was eventually smuggled out and publicly published. The Letter is the center of Why We Can’t Wait, and the book discusses the rise of the revolution and the change protestors hoped to enact.

4) Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community
Foreword by Coretta Scott King
Introduction by Vincent Harding

Where Do We Go from Here is the appropriately titled final book written by King before his assassination in 1968. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed, which prohibited racial discrimination in voting, but the fight for civil rights was far from over. King’s final work criticizes the white moderate and the increasingly violent Black Power movement as he focuses on a future where—through hard work and just actions—life can be improved for every American.

What are you reading in honor of MLK? Let us know below. Interested in more great content? Follow UNG Press on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and find our complete catalog on our homepage.

About Jillian Murphy

Jillian Murphy served as the Assistant Managing Editor of the UNG Press from 2017 to 2021. She is a writer and editor who specializes in kid lit, copyediting, and lame puns. Murphy is a UNG alumna, class of 2016.

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