Wednesday, January 15, 2014


Today is Martin Luther King's birthday.
Today he would have been 85.

Each year during January we remember Martin.
And we learn more about him.

Each year new books are published that teach our children (and us)  more about his dream for our nation and for the world.

Each year we learn more about his desires for all people to have the same rights and equal access to opportunities.

2013 was no different.

Three marvelous new children's books were published this past year from which we can learn more about Martin. Each enlightens us about an event  in Martin Luther King's life of which we may not be aware.
Each explodes a moment of history.

Did you know that Martin Luther King and Mahalia Jackson were friends?
Did you know that she is the reason we have the now famous I Have a Dream Speech?

In Martin & Mahalia: His Words, Her Song,  Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney present a friendship,  parallel stories, and the moment when Mahalia urges Martin to "tell them about your dream"  which brings him front and center. He had talked about his dream on several occasions prior, but thought he would not have time for that segment of thought at the March on Washington. At her urging, the now famous dream words remain part of our living history and continue to be our own dream.
They were each born with the gift of gospel.
These two icons, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahalia Jackson, both shared their gifts of gospel--words and songs-- on August 28, 1963  on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at the March on Washington.

To read eyewitness accounts of several who witnessed and heard this moment between Martin and Mahalia that lead to dream history, click here.

Click here to read my earlier post  I Have a Dream Today, written on the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, which highlights books about Martin Luther King Jr and his I Have a Dream Speech.

And for a review and an extensive sampling of  Pinkney's brilliant  illustrations from this book click here.

Did you know that Martin Luther King's coffin did not ride in a shiny black hearse, but an ordinary cart pulled by mules?

Martin Luther King wanted a common funeral,  not a showy production.  Many of us may not be aware that during his funeral procession, his coffin was carried through the streets of  Atlanta, Georgia --from Ebenezer Baptist Church  past the state capitol to Morehouse College-- in a lowly cart pulled by two mules.

Eve Bunting read about this event and decided to add this story to the growing number of books for children about Martin Luther King.   The Cart That Carried Martin  begins with finding the cart and follows the cart and the procession to its sad, yet hopeful end.

As the cart carrying Martin's coffin made its way slowly through the Atlanta streets, do you know what song they sang?

In We Shall Overcome: The Story of a Song, Debbie Levy tells the story of the song that accompanied the cart  that day, the same song  that was the soundtrack for much of the Civil Rights Movement, and that same song that continues to serve as the background music for human rights struggles throughout the world. She has written a biography of  We Shall Overcome.
We shall overcome.... We shall overcome.... We shall overcome someday-ay ay-ay. Deep in my heaarrrr-t I do believe we shall overcome someday.

As we celebrate
Martin Luther King's birthday
as we remember
his life and legacy
as we continue
his work
and strive
to dream his dream
into reality
we must remember
memorable events
and archival  history
are made up of small moments
that we can explore.
and explode.
And those small moments
teach us
more about the big events
and the people
who lived them.

Happy Birthday Martin!

Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

Think about a small fact or detail  that you have heard that interests you about Martin Luther King.  Take some time today to research that information to find out more.

Write a narrative, personal essay or poem about that small detail, fact, or moment.
Bring life to your writing  by adding sensory details, conversation, and description.
You may also want to include your own thoughts and speculations.

Turn the moment inside out and examine it closely.
Turn the fact upside down and dig into its background.
Explore the information and explode the moment.

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