Martin Luther King, Jr. was a true American hero, a martyred man of action and a sculptor of words who became the most influential author/orator to emerge from the Civil Rights movement's deep ranks of eloquent clergymen and fiery organizers. His "I Have a Dream" speech, an oration of historical and literary preeminence which American schoolchildren study alongside the Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address, is widely regarded as the most influential American speech of the 20th century.
The grandson and son of African-American ministers, King grew up practically under the roof of Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church. Following his graduation from Morehouse College in 1948 he became an ordained minister and later went on to earn a Ph.D in Systematic Theology at Boston University. Afterwords, he took up a pastorate in Montgomery, Alabama, where his inspiring sermons, dynamic oratory, and courageous leadership during the bus boycott of 1955-1956 soon attracted national attention. His book about the boycott, Stride Toward Freedom: the Montgomery Story(1958), remains an essential first-hand account of the early Civil Rights movement's tactics.
In 1959 he returned to Atlanta as an assistant pastor to his father at Ebenezer Baptist Church; however, his work had shifted largely from ministry to the movement for civil rights. In 1957 he had helped to co-found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and as its president in the following decade he would travel over six million miles, speak more than twenty-five hundred times, and write five books and numerous articles attacking injustice and urging protest.
In 1963 he led a massive protest in Birmingham, Alabama, that caught the attention of the entire world, providing what he called a coalition of conscience and inspiring his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," which remains one of his most persuasive, widely-distributed essays. Later that same year he would deliver the "I Have a Dream" speech to 250,000 people gathered at the Washington Monument, and in 1964 he became the youngest person (thirty-five) to be honored with the Nobel Peace Prize.
On April 4, 1968, King was murdered by an assassin in Memphis, Tennessee, where he had traveled to support black sanitation workers on strike for for higher wages and equal treatment.
King was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. Martin Luther King Jr. Day was established as a holiday in cities and states throughout the United States beginning in 1971, and was established for the federal government in 1986. Hundreds of streets in the United States and overseas have been renamed in King's honor. The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., was dedicated in 2011.
Since 1985, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project at Stanford University has worked on collecting all the writings and spoken words of King and making them widely available through the publication of The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr., a projected fourteen-volume edition of King's most historicaly significant speeches, sermons, correspondence, published writings, and unpublished manuscripts.
There are more than two hundred books, pamphlets, multi-volume sets, translations and different editions of writings and speeches by Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Hall of Fame collection of the Hargrett Library, and many historical and biographical works about this important Georgia writer, including the following:
Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story. New York: Harper, 1958.
Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story. [uncorrected galley proof], 1958.
The Measure of a Man. Philadelphia: Christian Education Press, 1959.
Address delivered by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Ph. D., on May 14, 1963 at St. Paul's Church, Cleveland Heights. Cleveland Heights? : The Church?, 1963.
Letter from Birmingham City Jail. Philadelphia: American Friends Service Committee, 1963.
Strength to Love . New York: Harper & Row, 1963.
Strength to Love. New York: Pocket Books Inc., 1964.
Why We Can't Wait. New York: Harper & Row, 1964.
A Martin Luther King Treasury. Photos by Roland Mitchell. Yonkers, N.Y.: Educational Heritage, 1964.
Nobel lecture by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Recipient of the 1964 Nobel peace prize, Oslo, Norway, December 11, 1964. New York: Harper & Row, 1965.
Address at valedictory service, University of the WestIndies, Mona, Jamaica June 20, 1965. Mona, Jamaica?: University of the West Indies?, 1965?
In the Supreme Court of the United States : October term, 1966, no. 249. Wyatt Tee Walker, Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph Abernathy, A. D. King, J. W. Hayes, T. L. Fisher, F. L. Shuttlesworth, and J. T. Porter, petitioners, vs. City of Birmingham, a municipal corporation of the State of Alabama, respondent. Brief for respondent / J. M. Breckenridge, Earl McBee, William C. Walker, attorneys for respondent. St. Louis, Mo.: St. Louis Law Printing Co., 1966?
Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? New York: Harper & Row, 1967.
Conscience for Change. Toronto: Canadian Broadcasting Company, 1967.
The Trumpet of Conscience. New York: Harper & Row, 1968.
The Measure of a Man. Philadelphia: Pilgrim Press, 1968.
I Have a Dream; The Quotations of Martin Luther King, Jr. Lotte Hoskins, ed. New York, Grosset, 1968.
We Shall Live in Peace: The Teachings of Martin Luther King, Jr. Deloris Harrison, ed. Illus by Ernest Crichlow. New York: Hawthorn Books, 1968.
A Martin Luther King Reader. Nissim Ezekiel, ed. Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1969.
La Forza di Amare. Torino, SEI, 1973.
Strength to Love. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1981.
Beyond Vietnam: a Prophecy for the '80's. New York: Clergy and Laity Concerned, 1982.
The Words of Martin Luther King, Jr. Selected by Coretta Scott King. New York: Newmarket Press, 1983.
A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings of Martin Luther King, Jr. James Melvin Washington, ed. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1986.
The Measure of a Man. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1988.
The Trumpet of Conscience. New York: Harper & Row, 1989.
I Have a Dream: Writings and Speeches that Changed the World. Foreword by Coretta Scott King. James Melvin Washington, ed. San Francisco, Cal.: HarperSanFrancisco, 1992.
The papers of Martin Luther King, Jr. [In progress.] Clayborne Carson, ed. Berkeley : University of California Press, 1992- .
The Martin Luther King, Jr., Companion: Quotations from the Speeches, Essays, and Books of Martin Luther King, Jr. Selected by Coretta Scott King. Introduction by Dexter Scott King. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1993.
A Knock at Midnight: Inspiration from the Great Sermons of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Edited by Clayborne Carson and Peter Holloran. New York: IPM/Warner Books, 1998.
A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. Edited by Clayborne Carson and Kris Shepard. New York: IPM/Warner Books, 2001.
All Labor Has Dignity. Edited by Michael K. Honey. Boston: Beacon Press, 2011.
The Radical King: Martin Luther King Jr. Edited by Cornel West. Boston: Beacon Press, 2015.
The holdings of the King Library and Archives at the King Center in Atlanta include King’s correspondence, extensive audiovisual documentation, oral histories, and records of many of the most involved organizations
The MLK Jr. Archival Collaborative is a partnership for the preservation of King historical material, established among the libraries of the Atlanta University Center, Boston University and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University