Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.

This Monday, Emory celebrated the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. We hope that you were able to participate in some of Emory’s King Week activities!

The Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday aims to commemorate King’s work and his dedication to serve others as a religious leader and activist. It first came into being in 1983, when President Reagan signed a bill to make King’s birthday a legal public holiday. Each year, the day is declared via Presidential Proclamation. In his 2024 Proclamation, President Biden highlighted King’s spiritual leadership: “Dr. King’s mission was a moral one: From bridges and ballot boxes to pulpits, protests, and courthouses, he courageously stood for the sacred idea that embodies the soul of our Nation — we are all created equal in the image of God and deserve to be treated equally throughout our lives.” 

Are you interested in learning more about King and his legacy? Check out a book or film from the Robert W. Woodruff Library.


The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., edited by Clayborne Carson

Written in his own words, this history-making autobiography is Martin Luther King: the mild-mannered, inquisitive child and student who chafed under and eventually rebelled against segregation; the dedicated young minister who continually questioned the depths of his faith and the limits of his wisdom; the loving husband and father who sought to balance his family’s needs with those of a growing, nationwide movement; and the reflective, world-famous leader who was fired by a vision of equality for people everywhere.

King: A Life, by Jonathan Eig

In this new portrait of the preacher and activist who shook the world, the bestselling biographer gives us an intimate view of the courageous and often emotionally troubled human being who demanded peaceful protest for his movement but was rarely at peace with himself. 

Parting the Waters, American in the King Years 1954-63, by Taylor Branch

Pulitzer prize-winning chronicle of the civil rights struggle from the twilight of the Eisenhower years through the assassination of President Kennedy.

See also Branch’s other works on King: Pillar of Fire: American in the King Years, 1963-65 and Canaan’s Edge: American During the King Years, 1965-1968. Branch received an honorary degree from Emory in 2017.

Find a complete list of works by Martin Luther King, Jr. held by the Woodruff Library here. For a list of works about King see here


King in the Wilderness

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. 

“Eyes on the Prize,” Season 1: Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3, Episode 4, Episode 5, Episode 6, Season 2: Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3, Episode 4, Episode 5, Episode 6, Episode 7, Episode 8

Produced by Blackside, “Eyes on the Prize” tells the definitive story of the civil rights era from the point of view of the ordinary men and women whose extraordinary actions launched a movement that changed the fabric of American life, and embodied a struggle whose reverberations continue to be felt today.


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is remembered as an American hero: a bridge-builder, a shrewd political tactician, and a moral leader. Yet throughout his history-altering political career, he was often treated by U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies like an enemy of the state. In this film, Sam Pollard lays out a detailed account of the FBI surveillance that dogged King’s activism throughout the ’50s and ’60s, fueled by the racist and red-baiting paranoia of J. Edgar Hoover. 


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s historical struggle to secure voting rights for all people. A dangerous and terrifying campaign that culminated with an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1964. 

I Am Not Your Negro

I Am Not Your Negro is an examination of racism in America through the lens of James Baldwin’s unfinished book, Remember This House. Intended as an account of the lives of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr., each of whom James Baldwin personally knew, only a 30-page manuscript of the book was ever completed. 

For a complete list of media related to King see here

Suggestions? Have you watched a streaming film or DVD in Emory’s collections related to African American history and culture and would like to recommend it to the Emory community? Contact Erica Bruchko (berica [at] emory [dot] edu) with your suggestions!

by Erica Bruchko, US history and African American Studies librarian