Poised to become America’s 44th president tomorrow, Barack Obama invoked Dr. King’s spirit earlier today during a day in which he painted walls at a shelter for homeless teens.
“Tomorrow we will come together as one people on the same Mall where Dr. King’s dream echoes still,” Obama said.
I wrote last week about Jonathan Rieder’s remarkable book The Word of the Lord Is Upon Me: The Righteous Performance of Martin Luther King, Jr.
In the spirit of the holiday honoring Dr. King’s life and his work, I offer the following five resources as my favorites about the slain civil rights leader:
1. At the River I Stand, by California Newsreel. This gripping documentary covers King’s final campaign with the sanitation workers in Memphis includes footage of the climax of his final public speech, later known as The Mountaintop speech.
2. Parting The Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-1963, by Taylor Branch. The first volume of Branch’s trilogy is the best of the bunch. Branch combines a novelist’s skill with remarkable historical perspective and analysis to produce a work worthy of the Pulitzer Prize it won.
3. Northern Protest: Martin Luther King, Jr., Chicago and the Civil Rights Movement, by James Ralph Jr. Chicago marked King’s first venture North and the consensus before Ralph’s book was that Mayor Richard J. Daley defeated King. Ralph provides a thorough overview of the reasons why King chose Chicago, a detailed analysis of the campaign with the Chicago Freedom Movement and a balanced assessment of the campaign’s results.
4. Stephen Oates’ Let The Trumpet Sound: The Life of Martin Luther King, Jr. contains King’s description of a religious experience during the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Struggling with death threats to him and his family, discouraged by the burden of trying to lead a movement, King was in despair on a night in late January, 1956. He realizes he must call for help, which can only come from God. He hears an inner voice that tells him to fight and that promises to never leave him alone.
5. Resisting the Dream, by me. I worked on a four-part series about Dr. King and the Chicago Freedom Movement’s 1966 campaign to end slum housing in Chicago and where the city stands now. The storytelling and analysis of whether white departures during the 90s from neighborhoods that saw heavy growth in the number of Latino residents constituted a second wave of flight we did in this, the third part, was my favorite.