Since 1986, Presidential Proclamations have been issued for Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday to be observed on the third Monday of January. On January 18th, 2016, we reflect on the work and struggles that King and an entire movement carried out so that their generation and the generations to come would “one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” As we continue to strive for Dr. King’s dream, check out these books for some inspiration:


0000000000000000John DybenThe immortal life of Henrietta Lacks / Rebecca Skloot

This fascinating account of Mrs. Lacks and the struggles her family, to this day, continue to face, is one of the most memorable books I have read in the last few years. Issues like medical ethics, human experimentation, and civil rights come into play after Mrs. Lacks’ cells are used without her permission or knowledge. Although Henrietta died in 1951 of cancer, her family continues to carry her legacy into the 21st century.

The warmth of other suns: the epic story of America’s Great Migration / Isabel Wilkerson

This historical narrative and sociological study of one of North America’s largest migrations offers the reader a very personal insight into Jim Crow United States. The Great Migration was a mass movement of African Americans from the South to the North and West in search of a better life. This award-winning work contextualizes such an important event in the history of the United States by telling it through the eyes of three individuals who were forced to migrate due to the brutality of Jim Crow laws.

Between the world and me / Ta-Nehesi Coates

Coates’ work has won numerous awards, and he, himself, received a MacArthur Genius Grant in 2015. There are very few words that can adequately describe how important this book is, but Toni Morrison got it right when she said, “This is required reading.” Between the world and me is written in the form of a letter to his son about the reality of growing up black in the United States, particularly in reference to the violence that African Americans face. Though this book is short, it begs the reader to read it more than once.

March / John Lewis 0000000000000000John Dyben

This trilogy of graphic novels explores the life and work of Representative John Lewis. From his youth in Alabama, to his meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., through the Civil Rights Movement and beyond, this is a captivating account of Jim Crow United States and one individual who, to this day, is still active in the fight for civil rights. The fact that this account comes in the form of a graphic novel makes this an even more appealing choice for young and/or reluctant readers.

Our Auntie Rosa: the family of Rosa Parks remembers her life and lessons / Sheila McCauley Keys

Though it’s been 10 years since her death, Rosa Parks will always be a Civil Rights icon and an American hero. Told through the eyes of her family, Our Auntie Rosa adds to her life’s work a personal touch, making Parks’ life more three-dimensional. While that one moment on a bus on December 1, 1955 will be what she will always be remembered for, the “First Lady of Civil Rights” never stopped fighting for civil rights during her 92 years on this Earth.


Once again, Palm Beach Happening would like to thank Adam Davis, director of system services for the Palm Beach County Library System, for reminding us of the historical importance of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, and giving us some food for thought.



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