Note: Stanford University’s Martin Luther King Jr. Research & Education Institute is a fantastic resource for the work of Dr. King. Check them out here.
A Pilgrimage to Nonviolence
In this essay originally published in “A Stride Towards Freedom,” Dr. King describes the path he took to arrive at his understanding of nonviolence, and provides an overview of his thinking on nonviolence, the role of the Church, pacifism, capitalism & communism, and more.
Letter From a Birmingham Jail
Written on the margins of newspapers from a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama, this is perhaps Dr. King’s most well known piece of writing. This was written as a response to this letter he received from eight clergyman criticizing him for his actions.
Beyond Vietnam: Time to Break Silence
One of Dr. King’s most famous and controversial speeches, he speaks out against the Vietnam War exactly one year before his assassination. Watch the video here. Listen to an NPR piece on the story behind the speech here.
Drum Major Instinct
In this sermon, King talks leadership and greatness, and encourages people to cultivate the desire to be a great servant of love. Two months before his assassination, he also discusses what he would like said at his own funeral. Listen to the audio here.
I Have A Dream
His most famous speech, delivered at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. Ironically, the “I have a dream” portion of the speech was not in the original speech, and was improvised on the spot. Watch the video here and read more background information about the speech here.
I’ve Been to the Mountaintop
The last speech Dr. King gave in public, the night before his assassination. In what is almost a prophetic speech, he says that he would like to live a long life like anybody else, but that he is no longer concerned with that because he has been to the mountaintop and “seen the Promised Land.” Listen to the full audio here, and watch the last few minutes on video here.
Rediscovering Lost Values
Given in 1954, this is his first known recorded sermon. In it, he speaks about the importance of going back to our spiritual roots and reminding ourselves of what matters most. Listen to the audio here.
Tough Mind, Tender Heart
King talks about the need for us to balance having a tough mind and a tender heart.
When Peace Becomes Obnoxious
A sermon discussing the difference between “negative” and “positive” peace, where Dr. King preaches that peace is not merely the absence of violence, but the presence of justice.
Where Do We Go From Here?
In an address to the SCLC annual convention, King explains that “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and that love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best, power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.” Listen to part of the speech (the best part) here.
Stride Towards Freedom: The Montgomery Story (1958)
In Dr. King’s first book, he recounts his experiences leading the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
Strength to Love (1963)
Dr. King’s second book is a collection of sermons and essays on a variety of topics.
Why We Can’t Wait (1963)
Dr. King’s third book is his reflection of the Birmingham campaign, a pivotal moment in the movement as well as in his life.
Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? (1967)
In his last book, Dr. King reflects on the movement and where it should go following the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. (2001)
Posthumously written by Clayborne Carson, this “autobiography” weaves together Dr. King’s writings to tell his story in his own words.
The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr. (1991 – )
Edited by Clayborne Carson of the Martin Luther King Research & Education Institute at Stanford University, this six volume archive is the most complete collection of Dr. King’s writings, speeches, sermons, unpublished manuscripts, letters and others.
A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. (2003)
The definitive collection of Dr. King’s most well known speeches, sermons and writings.
The Trumpet of Conscience (1968)
At the end of 1967, Dr. King delivered a series of five lectures for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. After his assassination, those five lectures were published in this book.
The Measure of a Man (1988)
A pair of meditations by Dr. King, showing the theological roots of his social and political activism.
A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Martin Luther King (2001)
Includes the texts of his most famous speeches, including “I Have a Dream,” “Beyond Vietnam” and his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize.
A Knock at Midnight: Inspiration from the Great Sermons of Rev. Martin Luther King (1998)
Includes the texts of 11 of his most powerful sermons, including “Rediscovering Lost Values,” and “Why Jesus Called a Man a Fool.”
*Note: Links to the Amazon listings of these books are provided for information purposes, but we encourage you to go support your local independent bookstores!