Materials We Have

Martin Luther King Jr. in His Own Words by Ryan Nagelhout

No discussion of the civil rights movement of the 1960s is complete without a close look at Martin Luther King Jr.  This book is an invaluable source of biographical information that uses King's own immensely powerful words to tell the story of his life and the fight for equality. The Montgomery bus boycott, the March on Washington, and the Civil Rights Act are just some historic events described. Readers will find that King's words still resonate today, years after his tragic death.

(excerpt from

Waking From the Dream by David L. Chappell

The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 left the civil rights movement in search of a strong leader and lively debate about how his legacy would be remembered. Civil rights scholar Chappell chronicles the fits and starts of continued efforts at civil rights that are uncelebrated but nonetheless pushed forward King's agenda. Among those efforts are the campaign for a national holiday to honor King, fair housing legislation and the Humphrey-Hawkings full employment bill (though the original intentions of both were watered down), and Jesse Jackson's two presidential campaigns. Chappell details the contentious debates on nationalism verses integration and the value of a single leader verses institutional viability, which led to the short-lived National Black Political Convention and the more enduring Congressional Black Caucus. Chappell details the failed efforts as much as the successes, highlighting the valuable lessons learned as groups and individuals renewed their strategies and determination to move forward. Emphasizing the rarity of such history-changing acts as the civil rights legislation, he notes that the struggle for equality is incremental and eternal. 

(excerpt from Booklist, 2013)

Let the Trumpet Sound by Stephen B. Oates

Winner of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Book Award and the Christopher Award, and a New York Times Book Review Notable Book of the Year in 2013, Let the Trumpet Sound by Stephen B. Oates is the definitive one-volume account of the life of Martin Luther King Jr. This brilliant examination of the great civil rights icon and the movement he led provides a lasting portrait of a man whose dream shaped American history. 

The acclaimed biographer of Abraham LincolnNat Turner, and John Brown provides an honest account of the challenges, the great achievements, and the events that shaped one of the greatest figures of the 20th century. Highly recommended for those who are familiar with the life of Martin Luther King, and an  absolute must for those who wish to learn more.


Death of a King by Tavis Smiley

Martin Luther King, Jr. died in one of the most shocking assassinations the world has known, but little is remembered about the life he led in his final year. New York Times bestselling author and award-winning broadcaster Tavis Smiley recounts the final 365 days of King's life, revealing the minister's trials and tribulations -- denunciations by the press, rejection from the president, dismissal by the country's black middle class and militants, assaults on his character, ideology, and political tactics, to name a few -- all of which he had to rise above in order to lead and address the racism, poverty, and militarism that threatened to destroy our democracy.

Smiley's Death of a King paints a portrait of a leader and visionary in a narrative different from all that have come before. Here is an exceptional glimpse into King's life -- one that adds both nuance and gravitas to his legacy as an American hero.

(excerpt from

I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King Jr.

On August 28, 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington, Martin Luther King gave one of the most powerful and memorable speeches in our nation's history. His words, paired with Caldecott Honor winner Kadir Nelson's magnificent paintings, make for a picture book certain to be treasured by children and adults alike. The themes of equality and freedom for all are not only relevant today, 50 years later, but also provide young readers with an important introduction to our nation's past. Included with the book is an audio CD of the speech.

(excerpt from

I See the Promised Land by Arthur Flowers

This stunning graphic novel biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. describes the apartheid South of his time, which in many ways was not very different from the early days of slavery. Included are descriptions of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the formation of civil rights groups, mass movements against segregation, such as the Albany Movement and the Children's Crusade in Birmingham, and the influence on King of Gandhi, with his nonviolent approach to resistance. Flowers' text smoothly incorporates excerpts from many of King's most moving speeches and concludes with a brief look at his legacy. Flowers tells a masterful story in musical prose, while Manu Chitrakar carries the tale into the vivid idiom of Patua art, turning King's historic journey into a truly universal legacy.

(excerpt from

A Time to Break Silence by Martin Luther King Jr.

A Time to Break Silence presents the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s most important writings and speeches--carefully selected by teachers across a variety of disciplines--in an accessible and user-friendly volume for students. Arranged thematically in six parts, the collection includes eighteen selections and is introduced by award-winning author Walter Dean Myers. Included are some of Dr. King's most well-known and frequently taught classic works, like "Letter from Birmingham Jail" and "I Have a Dream," as well as lesser-known pieces such as "The Sword that Heals" and "What Is Your Life's Blueprint?," which speak to issues young people face today.

(excerpt from

Marching to the Mountaintop by Ann Bausum

In early 1968 the grisly on-the-job deaths of two African American sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee, prompted an extended strike by that city's segregated force of trash collectors. Workers sought union protection, higher wages, improved safety, and the integration of their work force. Their work stoppage became a part of the larger civil rights movement and drew an impressive array of national movement leaders to Memphis, including, on more than one occasion, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

King added his voice to the struggle in what became the final speech of his life. His assassination in Memphis on April 4 not only sparked protests and violence throughout America; it helped force the acceptance of worker demands in Memphis. The sanitation strike ended eight days after King's death.

The connection between the Memphis sanitation strike and King's death has no received the emphasis it deserves, especially for younger readers.  Bausum's Marching to the Mountaintop explores how the media, politics, the Civil Rights Movement, and labor protests all converged to set the scene for one of King's greatest speeches and for his tragic death.

(excerpt from

We March by Shane W. Evans

On August 28, 1963, a remarkable event took place--more than 250,000 people gathered in our nation's capital to participate in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The march began at the Washington Monument and ended with a rally at the Lincoln Memorial, where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his historic "I Have a Dream" speech, advocating racial harmony. Many words have been written about that day, but few so delicate and powerful as those presented here by award-winning author and illustrator Shane W. Evans. When combined with his simple yet compelling illustrations, the thrill of the day is brought to life for even the youngest reader to experience.

(excerpt from

The King Years by Taylor Branch

This compact volume brings to life eighteen pivotal dramas, beginning with the impromptu speech that turned an untested, twenty-six-year-old Martin Luther King forever into a public figure on the first night of the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott. Five years later, minority students filled the jails in a 1960 sit-in movement, and, in 1961, the Freedom Riders seized national attention.

Branch interprets King's famous speech at the 1963 March on Washington, then relives the Birmingham church bombing that challenged his dream of equal souls and equal votes. We see student leader Bob Moses mobilize college volunteers for Mississippi's 1964 Freedom Summer, and a decade-long movement at last secures the first of several landmark laws for equal rights. At the same time, the presidential nominating conventions were drawn into sharp and unprecedented party realignment. 

(excerpt from

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Red Rising follows Darrow, a Red who, like all Reds, mines various elements on Mars to help terraform the planet’s surface for themselves and all of the other colored classes, including the superior Gold class. Darrow’s world is eventually torn apart when he discovers that his life is a lie and he is recruited by a rebel group that vows to bring the Golds down from within. Now Darrow must pretend to be a Gold in order to achieve the rebellion’s goals. But first, Darrow must survive the command school’s test that all Gold children must face, and that includes surviving the other students.

Red Rising, on the surface, is an obvious futuristic, dystopian novel that looks heavily on issues of class and race. But let’s be honest. So many books have undertones of something that we really shouldn’t roll our eyes and think “here’s another one.” So, looking past that, Red Rising is a fantastic, sci-fi military thriller and Brown does a great job of genre-blending. At its core this is a science-fiction novel. However, the test that the Gold students perform in is set in a medieval-esque landscape. It was a really interesting step in a different direction.

Admittedly Darrow turns out to be quite a bit of a “Larry Stu” character; he is the strongest, smartest, and most cunning. It’s a little hard to believe since everyone else in the test has been raised to do the things he just does naturally.  Some might get very turned off by it, but I was never bothered by it. In fact, I thoroughly enjoy books that read like a video game or action movie where the main character just kicks butt. In essence, that’s what Red Rising kind of is. It reminded me a lot of the Ender’s Game movie (sorry, never read the book), and a little like the Hunger Games trilogy (though a bit better).

Are there better science-fiction-military-thrillers out there? Probably. Is Red Rising still a fun read and interesting story? Definitely. I highly recommend this to action fans that enjoy a lot of fighting in their books. You won’t be disappointed.