Mike Colter, Michael K. Williams, Gabourey Sidibe and more bring Martin Luther King Jr.’s words to life in The Radical King


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words are coming to life in a celebrity-read collection of essays and speeches titled The Radical King.

For the first time ever, the Martin Luther King Estate is allowing a dramatic telling of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words. Several actors and activists have come together to create a moving interpretation of King’s legacy in The Radical King.

The Radical King is a collection of 23 of King’s essays and speeches. It has been curated and introduced by famous activist, writer, philosopher and intellectual Cornel West. West and Audible then brought in black celebrities and activists including LeVar Burton, Mike Colter, Leslie Odom Jr., Colman Domingo, Danny Glover, Gabourey Sidibe, Wanda Sykes and Michael Kenneth Williams to do a dramatic reading of King’s own words.

This is the first time the Martin Luther King Estate has allowed something like this. Even Selma had to improvise King’s speeches. But they’ve allowed this new project, which coincided with the 50th anniversary of King’s assassination and it is truly groundbreaking.

Mike Colter recording for ‘The Radical King.’ Photo Credit: Audible

As those who offered their voices to the project note, it’s one thing to read King’s speeches and another thing altogether to hear them read aloud the way they were intended.

It’s hard to describe how meaningful this is, including to the actors reading the speeches.

“I’ve listened to several of Dr. King’s speeches,” Williams said in a behind the scenes video. “None of that prepared me for the emotions that I was filled with having to recite his words.” He added that hearing Dr. King say it was okay to be black was really powerful for him.

Glover, meanwhile, reminisced about the boycott and seeing Dr. King’s actions at the time.

What’s important about The Radical King is that it includes some of King’s lesser-known works, some of which were never recorded. Yes, we all know the “I Have a Dream” speech. Yet, The Radical King will give us an even deeper look and understanding of who King was and just how radical, revolutionary, and passionate the civil rights leader truly was.

Wanda Sykes recording for ‘The Radical King.’ Photo Credit: Audible

“Reading Dr. King’s words was extremely daunting, but if this would introduce his lesser-known works to more people, then I needed to do it. I tried to channel what the words meant to me, and what he meant to me,” Sykes said.

We know King as the nonviolent civil rights leader. But we don’t know all the details. We don’t know how radical he truly was. King was a democratic socialist who fought for the people in America. As West says in the Introduction, King always “sided with poor and working people,” and his work can bring about a “revolution” and get us talking about a “transfer of power from oligarchs and plutocrats to everyday people and ordinary criticizes.”

“It was a great opportunity to get to know the man outside of the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech,” Sidibe said of the experience.

Those a part of the project also stressed many of King’s speeches are still relevant today. It’s true. With all the divisiveness in America today, taking a new look at King’s speeches couldn’t come at a better time.

Next: Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr. on the 50th anniversary of his death

You can check out The Radical King on Audible. With a 30-day membership trial, new Audible listeners can enjoy any one audiobook, including The Radical King, for free.