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January 10, 2024 - By Hawke Media

6 Movies to Watch and 5 Books to Read to Honor MLK Day in 2024

As the U.S. is set to celebrate the life of MLK, you can honor his legacy by commemorating the sacrifices that have been made for our current civil liberties. More than simply reading a biography, you can watch films or read books that serve to capture his legacy. 

Below, we’ve selected 5 movies and 5 books to help you better understand and appreciate his impact on society and the world.


MLK/FBI (2021)

Based on the 1981 book The FBI and Martin Luther King Jr.: From “Solo” to Memphis by David Garrow, MLK/FBI is a documentary examining how J. Edgar Hoover, the first director of the FBI, tried to sabotage King’s efforts via surveillance and harassment. 

One Night In Miami (2020)

Four civil rights icons—Malcolm X, Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali), Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown—meet in a Miami motel over ice cream in a fictionalized re-telling of their 1964 gathering, directed by Regina King. An afterparty on the night Clay won the world heavyweight boxing championship against Sonny Liston quickly turned into a debate on racial issues—and a turning point for Clay. He historically announced to the press that he was in the Nation of Islam the next morning. 

I Am MLK Jr. (2018)

This documentary discusses the impact of Martin Luther King Jr.’s work in the civil rights movement in the context of modern police brutality and discrimination that Black Americans still face. The film includes commentary from activist Jeffrey Shaun King, actor Nick Cannon, Congressman John Lewis, and others, continuing the conversation of the fight for racial equity.

King In The Wilderness (2018)

In this documentary, Martin Luther King Jr confidantes Andrew Young, Diane Nash and John Lewis discuss the challenges he faced as a leader in his final years, especially regarding his stance on the Vietnam War. King was highly critical of the U.S. government’s decision to fight in Vietnam while conditions in the U.S. for Black Americans were so poor. King was assassinated exactly one year later. 

I Am Not Your Negro (2016)

Filmmaker Raoul Peck pieced together passages, letters and notes from social critic James Baldwin’s unfinished book Remember This House to create this documentary film. I Am Not Your Negro explores the history of racism in America through the stories of three of Baldwin’s friends who were assassinated: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. 

Selma (2014)

This film is a retelling of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches in Alabama. The film depicts the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during a three-month period in which he fights for voting rights for African-Americans. 



A Testament of Hope

This is a one-volume collection of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s writings, speeches, interviews, and autobiographical reflections. A Testament of Hope contains Martin Luther King, Jr.’s essential thoughts on nonviolence, social policy, integration, black nationalism, the ethics of love and hope.

The Sword and the Shield

This dual biography of Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. contrasts the leadership styles of two of the twentieth century’s most iconic African American leaders. Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. represent contrasting ideals: self-defense versus nonviolence, Black Power versus civil rights, and the sword versus the shield, hence, the title of the book. The struggle for Black freedom is wrought with the same contrasts. 

Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965

This is a companion book to the documentary miniseries of the same name broadcast on PBS in 1987. For the thousands of ordinary people who participated in the Montgomery bus boycott, the Little Rock Nine, the Selma–Montgomery march, and other events of the civil rights movements, their stories are told in Eyes on the Prize.

Selma 1965: The March That Changed the South

The high point of the 1960s civil rights movement, Selma was a landmark achievement for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, religious activists from all over the country, and the brave citizens of Selma who made it happen, leading to the passage of the Voting Rights Act. Selma 1965, first published in 1974, is widely recognized as the most vivid and accurate account of the Selma movement. 

Daybreak of Freedom: The Montgomery Bus Boycott

The Montgomery bus boycott was a crucial step in the struggle to realize Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of liberty and equality for all. Daybreak of Freedom presents a history of the boycott by parlaying  over one hundred original documents into a narrative detailing the year-long protest of racial segregation.

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Jake Wengroff writes about technology and financial services. A former technology reporter for CBS Radio, he covers such topics as security, mobility, e-commerce and the Internet of Things.