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Exploring the Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Curious about Dr. King? Here are a few places to find out more about the man we honor.

Since his death, many artists and politicians have sought to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

On Nov. 2, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed the King Holiday Bill into law.

Less than three years later, on Jan. 20, 1986, the first official Martin Luther King, Jr. Day holiday was observed in the District of Columbia and 27 states, including California.

And today, Americans everywhere will celebrate the 26th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a federal holiday. Schools in both the Millbrae School District and the San Mateo Union High School District are closed Monday, as well as the Millbrae City Hall.

This milestone is the perfect opportunity to read many of the speeches and essays that Dr. King wrote. It's also a good time to discover some of the many works of art that explore what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. meant to people around the world.

So whether you have first-hand knowledge of the Civil Rights Movement, or only a vague notion of who Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was and what our country was like at the time he was murdered, Millbrae Patch has got you covered with a list of books, movies, and songs that make celebrating this year’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day all the more interesting.

Here are 10 different works that can help even the youngest members of our community understand more about the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

1. Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

This picture book biography by Doreen Rappaport was a 2002 Caldecott Honor winner. It has also won the Coretta Scott King Book Award.

Geared toward children 9 and under, it gives a look at Dr. King’s life from a boy through the time of his death. 

There are copies of Martin’s Big Words available on Amazon.com and libraries throughout the San Mateo County library system, including the .

2. Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. DVD

Narrated by Michael Duncan Clarke and Samuel L. Jackson, this DVD brings the award-winning picture book to life.

It also contains additional stories, including one about John Henry.

There are copies of this DVD at libraries throughout the San Mateo County library system.

3. King: Man of Peace in a Time of War

Looking for something to watch tonight? This documentary captures Dr. King speaking candidly on the topic of black participation in the Vietnam War. Not seen since 1967, this rare interview on the "The Mike Douglas Show" captures the passion and commitment of the great civil rights leader.

The documentary is avaliable to watch instantly or rent via Netflix.

4. A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Why limit yourself to sound bites of Dr. King when you can read entire speeches?

This book includes his most important speeches and essays, including “I Have a Dream” and “Letter from Birmingham City Jail.”

There are copies of A Testament of Hope available on Amazon.com and in libraries throughout the San Mateo County library system.

5. Why We Can’t Wait

First published in 1964, this book recounts the Civil Rights movement and sheds light on how the movement’s leaders, especially Dr. King, forced change in places such as Birmingham, Alabama.

There are copies of Why We Can’t Wait available on Amazon.com and in libraries throughout the San Mateo County library system.

6. King

This 1978 movie stars Paul Winfield as Martin Luther King and Cicely Tyson as Coretta Scott King. Tony Bennett and Ossie Davis make appearances as well.

The DVD is available in libraries throughout the San Mateo County library system, through Netflix and on Amazon.com.

7. Happy Birthday

In 1980, Stevie Wonder released the album Hotter than July. Perhaps the most memorable track on it is the song “Happy Birthday.”

It is in this song that Stevie Wonder makes an appeal for a holiday to honor the slain Civil Rights leader.

The song can be found on at least two different CDs. Both CDs are available in libraries throughout the San Mateo County library system. The album Hotter Than July is avaliable for sale on iTunes

Happy Birthday clip is on YouTube.    

8. Pride (In the name of love)

Originally released in 1984 as part of U2’s album The Unforgettable Firethis song, inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr., has appeared on subsequent albums by the Irish band.

There are numerous U2 CDs containing Pride (In the name of love) in libraries throughout the San Mateo County library system. The song is also is avaliable for sale on iTunes.

The Pride video is available on YouTube.

9. 4 Little Girls

This is a very powerful and touching documentary from filmmaker Spike Lee. Released in 1997, it recounts the events of a Birmingham Baptist church bombing that took the lives of four girls.

Family members, friends, and historical figures recall the events of that day. They tell what it was like to live in Birmingham during the Civil Rights era and how they have dealt with the pain of losing love ones.

4 Little Girls can be purchased on Amazon.com or rented via Netflix.

10. Dream

This song by rapper Common features Will.i.am and is on the soundtrack for the film Freedom Writer’s.

While the song samples a snippet of Dr. King’s voice from his “I Have a Dream” speech, the images in the music video goes beyond that. There are various images of man’s inhumanity toward man.

The Dream video is available on YouTube, and is avaliable for sale on iTunes.

Antonio Catpo January 16, 2012 at 04:00 PM
Vincent; thanks so much for this valuable information. We need to take this holiday as an opportunity to learn/teach about the sacrifice of Dr. King and the significance of the Civil Rights Movement Antonio Catpo

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