MLK Jr. Day: Celebrating Justice and Social Change

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we join our colleagues in Campus Ministry and the Center for Global Engagement in celebrating the legacy of a man who worked for justice. and social change. We have curated a short list of documentaries and drama, primary sources, and books that illustrate Dr. King’s continuing legacy.

Documentaries and Drama

King in the Wilderness

King in the Wilderness (Kanopy)
Excerpt: From award-winning director/producer Peter Kunhardt, KING IN THE WILDERNESS follows Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the volatile last three years of his life, from the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 to his assassination in April 1968. Drawing on revelatory stories from his inner circle of friends, the film provides a clear window into the civil rights leader’s character, showing him to be a man with an unshakeable commitment to peaceful protest in the face of an increasingly unstable country.



Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr: A Historical Perspective – An Authorized Biography of a Civil Rights Hero

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: an Historical Perspective (Kanopy)
Excerpt: He was the conscience of the struggle for civil rights–and one of its many heroic martyrs. This documentary offers a one-of-a-kind examination of Dr. King’s extraordinary life. Using rare and largely unseen film footage and photographs, this film (endorsed by the King Foundation) explores how Dr. King’s ideas, beliefs and methods evolved in the face of the rapidly changing climate of the Civil Rights Movement. To study Dr. King’s compelling and magnificent life is to understand that social change and enlightenment are brought about only by the overwhelming force of the human spirit.


Selma (Swank Video)

Excerpt: Selma is a 2014 historical drama film directed by Ava DuVernay and written by Paul Webb. It is based on the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches initiated and directed by James Bevel and led by Martin Luther King Jr., Hosea Williams, and John Lewis. The film stars actors David Oyelowo as King, Tom Wilkinson as President Lyndon B. Johnson, Tim Roth as George Wallace, Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King, and Common as Bevel.

Primary Sources

Michigan State University (Reel 161).
The library subscribes to Gale Primary Sources, a portal for exploring topics across 23 collections. There are many documents, manuscripts, books, newspapers, and periodicals that cover King’s experiences with the FBI, legal cases, other civil rights leaders. There are even letters written by King to various civil rights organizations. Specific collections include: Political Extremism and Radicalism, U.S. Declassified Documents Online, and The Making of Modern Law: U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs, 1832–1978.
Of special note is the FBI file on the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. This archive containing the 44,000-page case file of the Federal Bureau of Investigation documents the bureau’s role in finding James Earl Ray and obtaining his conviction. The FBI also collected background information on Dr. King’s social activism. Students and scholars of the civil rights movement will be especially interested in this archive.

Selected e-books from the library’s collections reflect the diversity and reach of Dr. King’s influence.
Sylvie Laurent and William Julius Wilson. 2019.

Baldwin, Lewis V. 2016. Behind the Public Veil: The Humanness of Martin Luther King Jr. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

Baldwin, Lewis V. and Victor Anderson. 2018. Revives My Soul again: The Spirituality of Martin Luther King Jr. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Fortress Press.

Baldwin, Lewis V., Vicki L. Crawford, Robert M. Franklin, Victor Anderson, Teresa Delgado, Larry Rivers, Crystal A. Degregory, Gary S. Selby, and Walter E. Fluker. 2019. Reclaiming the Great World House: The Global Vision of Martin Luther King Jr. Athens: University of Georgia Press.

Cervantes, Valerie S. 2018. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Speech Resources: Fact Sheet. Washington, District of Columbia: Congressional Research Service.

Dorrien, Gary J. 2018. Breaking White Supremacy : Martin Luther King Jr. and the Black Social Gospel. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Finley, Mary Lou, Bernard LaFayette, James R. Ralph, and Pam Smith. 2016. The Chicago Freedom Movement : Martin Luther King Jr. and Civil Rights Activism in the North. Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky.

Jackson, Thomas F. and Martin Luther King. 2007. From Civil Rights to Human Rights Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Struggle for Economic Justice. Philadelphia, Pa: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Laurent, Sylvie and William Julius Wilson. 2019. King and the Other America: The Poor People’s Campaign and the Quest for Economic Equality. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Lischer, Richard. 2020. The Preacher King: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Word that Moved America. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Rose, Justin. 2019. The Drum Major Instinct: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Theory of Political Service. Athens: The University of Georgia Press.

Further Information
  • The Catholic University Campus Ministry has a MLK Jr. Teach-In site. Check out the Ministry website for additional information and service opportunities.
  • The Center for Cultural Engagement has a Resources page with such topics as Resources for Confronting Racism and Being an Ally.
  • The John K. Mullen of Denver Memorial Library has a book display of select print resources on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. including the four volume set of his papers. The display is located on the 1st floor.
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