General Education

Top Resources to Learn All About Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Top Resources to Learn All About Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
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Elizabeth Sanchez Quiñones January 19, 2015

In honor of MLK Day, watch some of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s most riveting speeches from the Civil Rights era, and learn more about how this remarkable leader focused the nation’s attention on persistent injustices against African-Americans.

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the most influential civil rights leaders in U.S. history.

Whether it’s MLK Day, Black History Month, or any other time, Dr. King’s speeches promise to enrich children and parents alike. Dr. King’s speeches are known not only for their rhetorical power, but also for the impact they made on Americans — both at the time and today. His eloquence and charisma inspired audiences and exposed contemporary racial injustices that persisted an astonishing 100 years after slavery was abolished, and even into the present day.

Dr. King’s use of nonviolent civil disobedience attracted people across racial, religious, socioeconomic, and geographic boundaries. His social justice movement exposed hatred and brutality toward African-Americans. Dr. King used this attention to pursue two goals: first, to push for legislative changes that would protect blacks from discrimination; and, second, to galvanize the black community to advocate for social, political, and economic integration into U.S. society.

Below is a list of several of Dr. King’s most empowering and revolutionary speeches:

“The Montgomery Bus Boycott” (1955)


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The Montgomery Bus Boycott, which followed Rosa Parks’ arrest, was one of the largest and most successful boycotts in U.S. history. Check out Dr. King’s book “Stride Towards Freedom,” a memoir that chronicles this amazing feat.

Dr. King spoke before an audience of approximately 5,000 people at a church in Montgomery, AL on December 5, 1955. In his speech, he addressed the need for African-Americans to boycott Montgomery’s discriminatory public transportation system. In riveting terms, Dr. King also used this occasion to urge silent, unaffected blacks to support fellow African-Americans by providing them with rides until all blacks were free to sit anywhere on any bus.

You can read a transcript of this speech here.

“I Have a Dream” (1963)


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The most significant rally of the century was also the occasion for Dr. King’s most famous speech — in which he argued that, while slavery had been abolished nearly 100 years earlier, black people were still not free in this country. Remarkably for the period, he remained optimistic that America would make things right for black citizens by according them full civil rights. In this speech, he eloquently described his dream of racial integration and his desire to live in a country where people are judged based on character rather than skin color.

Read a transcript of this speech here.

“Eulogy for the Martyred Children” (1963)


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The death of four young girls in a church bombing carried out by white supremacists was the catalyst that awoke much of white America to the brutality and immorality of racism. In this speech, Dr. King argued that, more than ever, black people who had remained on the sidelines of the movement could no longer afford to be silent and passive; rather, they needed to demonstrate courage and take action. He asserted that the death of these girls had not been in vain because it would spur African-Americans to take greater steps to end the violence, segregation, and discrimination to which they had been subjected.

Read a transcript of this speech here.

“Beyond Vietnam” (1967)


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King was explicitly opposed to the Vietnam War at a time when many Americans supported it. He argued that the U.S. was spending too much money on the war, and not enough on efforts to eliminate poverty for both black and white Americans. He went on to assert that the Vietnam War grew out of America’s oppressive, imperialist mentality. The press criticized his speeches against the Vietnam War, but his stance aligned with his efforts to spur legislative changes to eradicate poverty and promote human rights.

Read a transcript of this speech here.

“I Have Been on the Mountaintop” (1968)


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This was King’s final speech before his assassination in Memphis, TN on April 4, 1968. In it, he addressed the changes that major U.S. cities would have to effect to address the growing poverty and starvation in African-American communities across the nation. He urged his audience not to think about the inconveniences of helping the impoverished and oppressed, but instead to focus on the individuals who would receive much-needed aid.

In the end, Dr. King expressed optimism that America would evolve to grant black people full freedom, and that white Americans would accept blacks as equals with the same civil rights as other citizens.
Read a transcript of this speech here.

Noodle Reading Recommendations

Here are some books about the venerable Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for readers of all ages. Use them to start your own tradition of keeping his work and ideals of racial equality alive now and into your child’s future:

# For young children

# For young adults


Brunner, B., & Haney, E. (n.d.). Civil Rights Timeline. Retrieved January 9, 2015, from Infoplease.

King Major Events Chronology 1929–1968. (n.d.). Retrieved January 9, 2015, from King Institute.


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