Chicago History Museum
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial March, Joliet, Illinois, April 7, 1968
On this day, the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we remember his legacy of justice, equity, nonviolence, resistance and self-education as we recommit ourselves to Dr. King's unfinished business.
MPC's staff recommend these books, articles, exhibits, performances and movies as a tribute to the spirit of Dr. King Jr. As the national conversation around equity and justice builds, these works will motivate and mobilize.
Our staff picks:
Shehara Waas, Research Associate: I’ve already pre-ordered my copy of Nepantla, an anthology of poetry by queer poets of color, coming out this spring! The anthology will feature both well-known poets (Audre Lorde, June Jordan), and newer voices (Ocean Vuong), and is an outgrowth of the AWESOME annually-released online journal of the same name. Its mission as established by the Lambda Literary Foundation is to 'center the lives and experiences of QPOC (queer poets of color) in contemporary America.'"
Abaki Beck, Executive Assistant: "When we reflect on the legacy of Dr. King, it's essential to think about today's young activists. Teen Vogue published a great article about how black teens fighting for gun reform for years have been invisible in mainstream media, yet white, wealthy teens in Florida have been given the spotlight and started a national conversation. Another impactful article on racial justice activism 'then versus now' is Ferguson: In Defense of Rioting, by Darlena Cunha in Time from 2014."
Emily Blum, Director of Marketing and Communications: "The new HBO documentary 'King in the Wilderness' examines the lesser-known moments of the final years of Martin Luther King's life. Jocelyn Noveck put it well for the Associated Press: It may be precisely because King is such a towering figure in our collective memory that we tend to focus on a few big moments — Montgomery, Birmingham, Selma and of course 'I Have a Dream'—and let the rest fade into history, leaving us with more myth than man as time goes on. 'King in the Wilderness' goes deeper."
Lifting As They Climbed, recommended by Lynnette McRae
Lynnette McRae, Manager: "I’m excited to read a new book, recently released by two local authors: Lifting As They Climbed. It features stories of black women activists who lived on the South side and acts as a guidebook for the various places where they lived and worked and the ways they contributed to the rich and unique culture of the South side and beyond."
Bob Newport, Fellow: "I can't wait to see Okwui Okpokwasili’s performance at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 'Poor People’s TV Room,' an exploration of the erasure of women’s histories in modern society."
MarySue Barrett, President: "Like many people, I’m drawn to historical photographs. They are one way I can peek into the past in my quest for understanding and guidance on the challenges of today. So I feel especially fortunate to have visited the Chicago History Museum’s 'Remembering Dr. King' exhibit and the New York Historical Society’s 'Rebel Spirits: Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr.' exhibit recently."
Napantla, recommended by Shehara Waas
Audrey Wennink, Director of Transportation: "One wonderful book is This Will Be My Undoing by Morgan Jerkins, a very personal memoir about Morgan’s daily lived experience as a black woman in America. I also can't wait to finish The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein, because this book helps us understand the institutional structures and policies that have led us to this point and why the wealth gap between blacks and whites is so large today."
Joe Alter, Research Assistant: "In The New Yorker's "Honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., Fifty Years After His Death," Columbia University Professor of Journalism, author and New Yorker columnist Jelani Cobb explores the 'web of mutuality' connecting MLK’s turbulent historical moment to ours: 'It is either damning irony or inspiring continuity—or, possibly, both—that the fiftieth anniversary of King’s death falls amid the largest antigun-violence mobilization that we have seen since he departed.' Noting that Congress passed the Gun Control Act of 1968 in the wake of King’s death, Cobb is encouraged by the insistence of #NeverAgain activists in linking the struggle against gun violence to the long march towards racial justice and reconciliation in the U.S."
The struggle toward equity and justice is ongoing. As we progress toward a brighter tomorrow, these works educate, inform, enlighten—and inspire us. In the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.