Editor’s note: As the 2023 observance of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday nears, we’re highlighting this story from 2021 about the extensive UCLA Film &Television Archive collection of videos about King ranging from newsreels to documentaries. 

As Martin Luther King Jr. Day approaches on Jan. 18, the nation is still reeling from a tumultuous election that exposed deepening and seemingly insurmountable divides among Americans, which tragically culminated in the recent violent storming of the U.S. Capitol. It seems like now more than ever, there’s a vital need to reflect on King’s life and work.

“Recent national events — from the senseless murder of George Floyd to the horrific white supremacist attack on the U.S. Capitol — indisputably illustrate that Dr. King’s life work remains vitally relevant, perhaps more than ever,” said Mark Quigley, the John H. Mitchell Television Archivist at the UCLA Film & Television Archive, a division of UCLA Library.

The archive’s collection includes more than 100 moving image holdings relevant to the study of the iconic civil rights leader, ranging from newsreels to TV documentaries. Students, faculty and researchers may view these holdings by appointment through the Archive Research and Study Center, located in Powell Library, when the center resumes in-person operations. “These holdings offer numerous perspectives that provide significant research entry points to help illuminate the immeasurable contributions that King has made to American society and the world,” Quigley said.

Some of the archive’s videos can be found on YouTube, including King’s visit to Los Angeles prior to the presidential election of 1964 and King at the signing of the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In addition, the archive’s civil rights footage is included in the documentary “King in the Wilderness,” which chronicles the final chapters of King’s life. The film can be streamed on Kanopy for free with a public library card or university login.

“UCLA is honored and humbled to be entrusted to care for, preserve and provide access to these materials that help to document Dr. King’s actions to secure freedom and justice for all people,” Quigley said. “To eliminate the evils of ignorance, prejudice and racism, the words and accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as seen and heard in historic footage of the murdered civil rights leader, must be foregrounded and made available to instruct and inspire.”