Books in Honor of MLK Jr. Day from Notre Dame Press

Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 18, 2021, is the 26th anniversary of the day of service that celebrates the civil rights leader’s life and legacy. While designated as a national day of service to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities, it is also used as a day to examine King’s work and to express hope that this nation can be better if we all come together and work towards making it a better place. Poverty, unemployment, voting rights, and racial disparities in education are still issues today, as they were when MLK fought for racial equity five decades ago. Today, the United States still needs the civil rights movement. The University of Notre Dame Press is proud to publish two profoundly moving books this spring that look at the history of the civil rights movement and a great abolitionist and archivist of the Underground Railroad.


Distinguished historian and civil rights activist Howard Ball has written dozens of books during his career, including the landmark biography of Thurgood Marshall, A Defiant Life, and the critically acclaimed Murder in Mississippi, chronicling the Mississippi Burning killings. In Taking the Fight South, arguably his most personal book, Ball focuses on six years, from 1976 to 1982, when, against the advice of friends and colleagues in New York, he and his Jewish family moved from the Bronx to Starkville, Mississippi, where he received a tenured position in the political science department at Mississippi State University. For Ball, his wife, Carol, and their three young daughters, the move represented a leap of faith, ultimately illustrating their deep commitment toward racial justice.

“As we examine the horrific examples of public racism, Islamophobia, and anti-immigrant policy and behavior in contemporary society, I read this book personally, internalizing it deeply to ask if I would have had similar courage.”

—Mark Curnutte, author of Across the Color Line

Read an excerpt from Taking the Fight South.


This is the first major biography of the free black abolitionist William Still, who coordinated the Eastern Line of the Underground Railroad and was a pillar of the Railroad as a whole. Based in Philadelphia, Still built a reputation as a courageous leader, writer, philanthropist, and guide for fugitive slaves. This monumental work details Still’s life story beginning with his parents’ escape from bondage in the early nineteenth century and continuing through his youth and adulthood as one of the nation’s most important Underground Railroad agents and, later, as an early civil rights pioneer. Still worked personally with Harriet Tubman, assisted the family of John Brown, helped Brown’s associates escape from Harper’s Ferry after their famous raid, and was a rival to Frederick Douglass among nationally prominent African American abolitionists.

“William C. Kashatus’s William Still, along with providing a rich account of the great abolitionist and archivist of the Underground Railroad, brilliantly conveys the courage, the resourcefulness, and the intelligence of the slaves escaping towards freedom. This is history as it should be written: poignant, passionate, and trenchant.”

—Kenneth A. McClane, author of Color: Essays on Race, Family, and History

Read an excerpt from William Still.

Howard Ball and William Kashatus are available for interviews.

These titles will be available in print and digital editions from Notre Dame Press. You can purchase copies wherever books are sold. We encourage you to support your local independent bookstore either in person or online during the coronavirus pandemic. For more information, contact: Kathryn Pitts,, 574.631.3267.

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