“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Happy (Almost) Martin Luther King, Jr. Day! On January 18, 2021, our country will celebrate and recognize the life of the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I know countless classrooms, homes, and libraries will be showcasing and learning more about the life and work of Dr. King.

Like many Americans, I have always been in awe of Dr. King’s activism. I still remember hearing his “I Have a Dream” speech for the first time and feeling a fire begin to roar in me. I wanted so badly to give a speech like that and change the hearts of my fellow peers in the name of social justice (maybe this is where my own activism spark began?). We should want that same moment for all our country’s students. 

MLK, Jr. Day is a beautiful day to continue our work around learning about true history and showcasing a range of diverse books. I have collected a list of diverse books to use on Martin Luther King, Jr Day with Middle and High School Students (check out our blog post here for a list for Elementary Students or for picture book ideas to read to your Middle and High School Students). The majority have been written by Black authors because of our collective value of uplifting BIPOC authors (the symbol * after the book title means the book has been written by a Black author). I hope you find one that is perfect for your classroom, library, or home! 

Middle & High School Book List

Trailblazers: Martin Luther King, Jr.: Fighting for Civil Rights, by Christine Platt*

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 8-12 years

Trailblazers: Martin Luther King, Jr. is a beautiful chapter book by Christine Platt about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It shares the true story of Dr. King and his fight for Civil Rights as a trailblazer. Again, the author, Christine Platt, is an advocate for social justice – learn more about her at https://www.christineaplatt.com

A Time to Break Silence: The Essential Works of Martin Luther King, Jr., for Students, by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.*

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 14+ years

This is a collection of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s writings. Each speech and writing was picked out by teachers across disciplines. It first includes an introduction written by Walter Dean Myers that shares more about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s life and writings in general. Then, each of the nineteen chapters has an introduction to a specific piece of writing, the writing itself by Dr. King, and then follow-up reflection questions. In the back, it even has a glossary of important terms. A Time to Break Silence is the perfect book for Middle School and High School students!

Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community, by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.*

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

This book was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s final work and almost like a “follow-up” to his activism. Recently published, Where Do We Go from Here lays out his thoughts, plans, and dreams for America’s future. It details his ideas around education, housing, and jobs. I love the powerful theme (and subtitle) of “Chaos or Community” as this book shows how community needs to be the root of our country. 

Why We Can’t Wait, by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.*

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Why not learn about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and the Civil Rights Movement from the man himself? Why We Can’t Wait is a classic where Dr. King explores and details the Civil Rights Movement and what led up to it. He also provides a look into the future about what needs to be done to gain equality for African Americans. 

I Have a Dream: Writings and Speeches That Changed the World, by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. & edited by James M. Washington*

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

I Have a Dream is another collection of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s essential writings and speeches. This one was arranged by James M. Washington, who ordered them chronologically and provides short introductions for each. The book also contains a foreword by Dr. King’s wife, Coretta Scott King. 

My Life with Martin Luther King, Jr., by Coretta Scott King*

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

My Life with Martin Luther King, Jr. was written by his wife, Coretta Scott King. This novel details the history of the Civil Rights Movement. Mrs. King also shares details of her life with Dr. King and their family. It is a great book to understand Dr. King in the Civil Rights Movement and beyond. 

A Child Shall Lead Them: Martin Luther King Jr., Young People, and the Movement, by Rufus Burrow Jr.*

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

A Child Shall Lead Them is a book all about the role Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and young people played in the Civil Rights Movement. It takes different moments from the Civil Rights Movement and discusses Dr. King’s connections and work with youth. It would be a great book for youth to study and see how they can also fight for social change. There are some ties to Christianity in this book, so if you work for a secular school, the whole book might not be the right fit for your kiddos (you could probably just read sections – use your own discretion).

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