Martin Luther King, Jr. Day falls on Monday, January 18, 2021, and celebrates the Civil Rights leader’s life and legacy. It is the only federal holiday designed as a national day of service, rather than a day “off.”

In the spirit of service and improving civil rights in our nation and communities, the books below address the lives of MLK and his peers, race and racism in America, and relevant issues like voting rights.

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

Using Stanford University’s voluminous collection of archival material, including previously unpublished writings, interviews, recordings, and correspondence, King scholar Clayborne Carson has constructed a remarkable first-person account of Dr. King’s extraordinary life. Beginning with his boyhood, the book portrays King’s education as a minister, his ascendancy as a leader of the Montgomery bus boycott, his pivotal role in the civil rights demonstrations in Washington, D.C., and his complex relationship with the Kennedy brothers, LBJ, Malcolm X, and numerous other leading figures of the day.

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This Is Your Time by Ruby Bridges

Written as a letter from civil rights activist and icon Ruby Bridges to the reader, This Is Your Time is both a recounting of Ruby’s experience as a child who had to be escorted to class by federal marshals when she was chosen to be one of the first black students to integrate into New Orleans’ all-white public school system and an appeal to generations to come to effect change. Ruby’s honest and impassioned words, imbued with love and grace, serve as a moving reminder that “what can inspire tomorrow often lies in our past.” This Is Your Time will electrify people of all ages as the struggle for liberty and justice for all continues and the powerful legacy of Ruby Bridges endures.

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Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson

Beyond race, class, or other factors, there is a powerful caste system that influences people’s lives and behavior and the nation’s fate. Linking the caste systems of America, India, and Nazi Germany, Wilkerson explores eight pillars that underlie caste systems across civilizations, including divine will, bloodlines, stigma, and more. Using riveting stories about people—including Martin Luther King, Jr., baseball’s Satchel Paige, a single father and his toddler son, Wilkerson herself, and many others—she shows the ways that the insidious undertow of caste is experienced every day.

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Our Time Is Now by Stacey Abrams

Celebrated national leader and bestselling author Stacey Abrams offers a blueprint to end voter suppression, empower our citizens, and take back our country. A recognized expert on fair voting and civic engagement, Abrams chronicles a chilling account of how the right to vote and the principle of democracy have been and continue to be under attack. The book compellingly argues for the importance of robust voter protections, an elevation of identity politics, engagement in the census, and a return to moral international leadership.

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The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X by Les Payne and Tamara Payne

Les Payne, renowned Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative journalist, embarked on a 30 year quest to interview anyone he could find who had actually known Malcolm X—all living siblings of the Malcolm Little family, classmates, street friends, cellmates, Nation of Islam figures, FBI moles and cops, and political leaders around the world. His goal was ambitious: to transform what would become over a hundred hours of interviews into an unprecedented portrait of Malcolm X, one that would separate fact from fiction. The result is this historic biography that conjures a never-before-seen world of its protagonist.

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Black Ink: Literary Legends on the Peril, Power, and Pleasure of Reading and Writing, edited by Stephanie Stokes Oliver

Throughout American history black people are the only group of people to have been forbidden by law to learn to read. This unique collection seeks to shed light on that injustice and subjugation, as well as the hard-won literary progress made, putting some of America’s most cherished voices in a conversation in one magnificent volume that presents reading as an act of resistance. Spanning over 250 years of history, Black Ink traces black literature in America from Frederick Douglass to Ta-Nehisi Coates in this masterful collection of twenty-five illustrious and moving essays on the power of the written word.

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His Truth is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope by Jon Meacham

John Lewis, who at age twenty-five marched in Selma, Alabama, and was beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, is a visionary and a man of faith. Drawing on decades of wide-ranging interviews with Lewis and deep research into the history of the civil rights movement, Jon Meacham writes of how this great-grandson of a slave and a son of an Alabama tenant farmer was inspired by the Bible and his teachers in nonviolence, Reverend James Lawson and Martin Luther King, Jr., to put his life on the line in the service of what Abraham Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature.” A believer in hope above all else, Lewis learned from a young age that nonviolence was not only a tactic but a philosophy, a biblical imperative, and a transforming reality.

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How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

Ibram X. Kendi’s concept of antiracism reenergizes and reshapes the conversation about racial justice in America–but even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. In this book, Kendi weaves together an electrifying combination of ethics, history, law, and science, bringing it all together with an engaging personal narrative of his own awakening to antiracism. How to Be an Antiracist is an essential work for anyone who wants to go beyond an awareness of racism to the next step: contributing to the formation of a truly just and equitable society.

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The library will be closed on Monday, January 18, 2021, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

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