The Atlantic's KING: Original Essays from Special Edition Released Online

Features rarely published King speeches, excerpts From Atlantic archives, and new contributions from John Legend, Jesse Williams, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Kara Walker, John Lewis, Vann Newkirk, Matt Desmond, Eve L. Ewing

Today, The Atlantic is marking the online launch of KING—its new magazine edition commemorating the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. The issue, which refracts King’s life through the prism of his three main preoccupations of racism, poverty, and militarism, contains rarely published speeches by King, material from The Atlantic’s archives, photography, poetry, and original essays and interviews. Two of the original essays are now published online: Bernice King, the youngest child of Dr. King, introduces the issue and her father’s principles of nonviolence, and Jesmyn Ward writes about how the forces that King fought against manifest today. These two essays are the first in what will be a six week-long, in-depth series featuring pieces from KING as well as web-only reporting, refracting the reality of today’s America through the prism of King’s vision.

Writing for The Atlantic, National Book Award-winner Jesmyn Ward reflects on choosing to raise her children in her home state of Mississippi, where the persistence of racism and poverty tell them “they are perpetually less.” While King pushed for a guaranteed income that could solve all the other problems associated with poverty, Ward writes: “The Mississippi I grew up in, the Mississippi that I live in now, that I’m raising my children in, resists this broadened understanding of what it means to be a human being. It resists the desire to rise above the circumstance of caste that we are born into and to never worry about the next time you’ll eat or whether your children are hungry … This Mississippi insists that there is a natural order to this arrangement, that if you are poor or wanting, you’re to blame if you starve. That you deserve your poverty, your squalor, your suffering.”

Bernice King, who was five years old when her father was assassinated, introduces the magazine issue, laying out three nonviolent actions that she thinks her father would offer in this polarizing period in America’s history. She writes: “If we remain in the grasp of nationalism, patriarchy, class conflict, racism, and religious bigotry, we will continue to be dehumanized—and destroyed—by poverty, genocide, slavery, and war. But the realization that we are all connected will make us more engaged in every area of human life, including our community.”

KING is now on newsstands nationwide. Features from the issue, which will roll out across the coming weeks at, include:

  • Actor Jesse Williams and musician John Legend on the intersection of art and activism
  • An essay by Matthew Desmond about worsening conditions in America's cities
  • Photographs by LaToya Ruby Frazier showing the geography of oppression
  • An interview with Congressman John Lewis, who marched with Dr. King in Selma
  • Historian Jeanne Theoharis on Coretta Scott King
  • Voices from The Atlantic's archives, including Stokely Carmichael, Jonathan Kozol, and Archibald MacLeish
  • Republication of King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail" under the title as it appeared in The Atlantic 55 years ago, "The Negro is Your Brother"

Support for this project has been provided by the Fetzer Institute, the Ford Foundation, and the Charles H. Revson Foundation.

To request a copy of the magazine, or to speak with The Atlantic’s editors or contributors to the KING issue about their work, please contact Anna Bross or Sydney Simon.