History & Culture

Martin Luther King Jr. In His Own Words

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Reading the words Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. left behind, thinking about them and talking to others about them, is one way to honor him on January 16, the day commemorating his birth and legacy.

Dr. King’s writings include not only books, but masterful speeches and many letters. Below is a selection of his books, his speeches and one letter, which is regarded as one of the most important documents of the Civil Rights Movement. These featured writing selections are available to you for reading or listening online, or for check out with your IndyPL library card. You can take just ten minutes to read a letter, 20 minutes to listen to one of his speeches, or several days to do a deep dive into one of his books to learn about, re-connect with, remember, or re-commit to his messages about community, equality, and social justice.

“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop…and I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”

~ Martin Luther King Jr., Memphis, Tennessee, April 3, 1968, delivered less than 24 hours before he was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

Five Speeches

I Have a Dream
Delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., August 28, 1963. You can read the text of the speech or listen to audio.

Our God is Marching On
Delivered in Selma, Alabama after the march to Montgomery, March 25, 1965. You can read the text of the speech and listen to audio.

Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence
Delivered at Riverside Church, New York City, April 4, 1967. You can read the text of the speech or listen to audio here.

The Other America
Delivered at Grosse Pointe High School, April 14, 1968. You can read the text here.

I’ve been to the Mountaintop
Delivered in Memphis, Tennessee, April 3, 1968, one day before he was assassinated on April 4, 1968. You can read the text of the speech here.

(More Fascinating featured documents can be found at the Stanford Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute.)

One Letter

Letter From a Birmingham Jail
You can read the text of the letter or listen to an audio from the Stanford Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute.

Six Books

Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story (1958) Dr. King’s first book, it tells the story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott from the early strategic planning to pushback from the white community to the eventual success of establishing a desegregated city bus service. print | print | e-book (OverDrive) | audiobook (OverDrive)

The Measure of a Man (1959)
A collection of meditations and prayers written 10 years before the civil rights leader was assassinated. print

Strength to Love (1963)
This is a collection of Dr. King’s iconic sermons. print | print | print

Why We Can’t Wait (1963)
His argument for equality and an end to racial discrimination that explains why the civil rights struggle is vital to the United States. print | print | e-book (OverDrive) | audiobook (OverDrive) | audiobook CD

Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? (1967)
The book in which he outlines the trends in the African American struggle during the sixties, and calls for peaceful coexistence between the African American and white communities. print | e-book (OverDrive) | audiobook (OverDrive) | audiobook (CD)

The Trumpet of Conscience (1968)
A collection of five lectures from 1967 that address racial equality, conscience and war, the mobilization of young people, and nonviolence. print | e-book (OverDrive)

Visit the Center for Black Literature & Culture at Central Library

You can check out Dr. King’s books and many more at the Center for Black Literature & Culture (CBLC), a space at Central Library dedicated to celebrating the vibrant and resilient heritage and triumphs of those born of African roots. The CBLC’s collection includes specially selected literature, music, movies, and artwork highlighting the contributions of black icons, specifically those with Indiana roots.

The Racial Equity Collection

The Racial Equity Collection makes it easier than ever for Library patrons to access antiracism and social justice resources. The Library purchased thousands of new materials including books, e-books, audiobooks, DVDs, and Blu-rays. The materials span a wide range of genres, with titles suited for children, teens, and adults. See the collection online.

Books for Kids to Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, here are 25 books for children that highlight Dr. King’s life and legacy fighting for justice.

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