Martin Luther King, Jr. is the kind of hero whose story inspires Americans of all ages, 8-year-olds and 80-year-olds, generations past and generations to come.
Accordingly, authors have used his life as the subject matter for everything from picture books to general interest biographies for adults, from essay collections about his impact on race in America to academic interrogations of his rhetoric. The more one learns about MLK, the more there is to appreciate.
In honor of the civil rights leader‘s birthday, here are five books on his life and legacy for readers of all ages.
Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
By Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Bryan Collier
This picture book blends King’s quotes with original writing to tell his life story to readers ages five to eight, accompanied by vibrant paint and cut-paper collage illustrations. It won a Caldecott Honor and a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor.
My Life, My Love, My Legacy
By Coretta Scott King, as told to the Rev. Dr. Barbara Reynolds
Late in her life, King’s widow recounted stories of their marriage, their roles in the civil rights movement, and the aftermath of his assassination to the writer and minister Dr. Barbara Reynolds, now documented in this new book out Tuesday. She also shares details of her work on the King Center and the mission to instate a national holiday in honor of MLK.
The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.
By Martin Luther King Jr., edited by Clayborne Carson
After King’s untimely death in 1968, King scholar Clayborne Carson pulled together the civil rights leader’s many writings and speeches and organized them into an autobiographical form. It’s an unusual genesis for an autobiography, but one that pays thoughtful homage to the giant of American rhetoric.
Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference
By David J. Garrow
Garrow won the Pulitzer Prize in Biography for this volume consolidating information from more than 700 interviews with King’s allies, associates and opponents, as well as access to his FBI files.
Martin Luther King: The Inconvenient Hero
By Vincent Harding
The scholar and activist muses on King’s legacy in the decades after his death in a series of essays, reflecting on how King’s message changed in his later years and why Americans focus on certain elements of his story.
Martin Luther King, Jr.: The Last Interview: and Other Conversations
The popular “Last Interview Series” assembles notable interviews from prominent figures (including, yes, their final major interview before death). This collection includes a 1964 conversation with Robert Penn Warren and King’s final interview, just 10 days before his assassination, on stage at the convention of the Rabbinical Assembly.