Since 1986, the United States has recognized Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday as a federal holiday. Although King was born on January 15th, the country observes the holiday on the third Monday of the month. This year on January 16th, millions of people across the country will commemorate the day by committing to a day of service to carry on King’s vision of peace, unity, and justice. Many will also reflect on his challenge to humanity, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” Parents, educators, and community leaders will also seek out various resources to teach about the life of Martin Luther King Jr. There have been many books written about his life. King himself and members of his family wrote most of the books featured in this article, which includes titles for elementary, middle, and young adult readers.
“Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr.: Man of Peace – Patricia & Fredrick Jr. McKissack
The simple text and illustrations describe the life and accomplishments of the revered civil rights pioneer
I Have a Dream – Kadir Nelson
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.
A Lesson for Martin Luther King Jr. – Denise Lewis Patrick
Young Martin Luther King Jr. is having some problems with his best friend, Bobby. First, they are going to different schools this year. Next, Bobby’s dad is not letting his son play with Martin. When Martin learns why, he is confused and hurt — but he learns a lesson that he will never forget.
My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – Martin Luther King III
What was it like growing up as a son of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? This picture book memoir, My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Martin Luther King III, provides insight into one of history’s most fascinating families and into a special bond between father and son.
My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – Christine King Farris
Long before he became a world-famous dreamer, Martin Luther King Jr. was a little boy who played jokes and practiced the piano and made friends without considering race. But growing up in the segregated south of the 1930s taught young Martin a bitter lesson — little white children and little black children were not to play with one another. Martin decided then and there that something had to be done. And so he began the journey that would change the course of American history.
I’ve Seen the Promised Land: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – Walter Dean Myers
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is one of the most celebrated figures of the twentieth century. A crusader for nonviolent social justice, he led African Americans in their demands for equality through peaceful protests during one of the most tumultuous times in recent history. Set against key moments in the civil rights movement, here is the story of the powerful, eloquent spiritual leader and his belief that nonviolence could be used to overcome racial discrimination.
Martin Luther King Jr.: A King Family Tribute – Angela Farris Watkins
Martin Luther King Jr.’s family comes together for the first time to share their reflections and memories of the great civil rights leader. Included are contributions from his sister (the only surviving member of his immediate family), his children, his in-laws, his nieces and nephews, and even his grandchildren, who, although they never met him, explain what his legacy means to them.
My Life with Martin Luther King, Jr. – Coretta Scott King
The widow of the dynamic and beloved civil rights leader recounts the history of the movement and offers an inside look at Dr. King, his sermons and speeches, her relationship to him, their children and family life, and more.
Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story – Martin Luther King Jr.
Account of the Montgomery story that began as a bus strike in the first successful large-scale application of non-violent resistance to an American situation.
Why We Can’t Wait – Martin Luther King Jr.
In this remarkable book, Dr. King recounts the story of Birmingham in vivid detail, tracing the history of the struggle for civil rights back to its beginnings three centuries ago and looking to the future, assessing the work to be done beyond Birmingham to bring about full equality for African Americans. Above all, Dr. King offers an eloquent and penetrating analysis of the events and pressures that propelled the Civil Rights movement from lunch counter sit-ins and prayer marches to the forefront of American consciousness.
Black Children’s Books and Authors DOES NOT review books, the mission of our organization is to promote awareness of Black authors of children’s and young adult literature. Summaries and reviews—for most of the books—can be found by clicking on the links.