I Have a Dream (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

In this book, fifteen winners of the Coretta Scott King Award come together to illustrate Dr. King's most famous oratory in its entirety. Each page illustrates a section of his "I Have a Dream" speech that was given on the steps of the Lincoln monument on August 28,1963. It is a brilliant work, giving readers a visual connection to the events that had taken place to inspire Dr. King's speech.

My favorite line from each page:
-I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
-This momentous decree [the Emancipation Proclamation] came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering justice.
-But one hundred years later...the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination...
-When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir....It is obvious today that America has defaulted on the promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned....But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.
-This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.
-There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights.
-Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.
-We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality...We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto into a larger one.
-We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating, "For Whites Only."
-You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.
-I have a dream one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed - we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
-I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
-I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with words of interposition and nullification, one day, right there in Alabama, little black boys and little black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today!
-With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.
-...And when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children - black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics - will be able to join hands and to sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last, free at last; thank God Almighty, we are free at last."

After slowly reading through the book, I then located the audio of Dr. King's speech online, and read it again, this time listening to this great man deliver his speech. And I cannot tell you how moving it is. Over and over I got chills, hearing the passion of Dr. King and the people whose voices are heard cheering in the background. Especially as the mother to two daughters, one who is white and one who is Ugandan American, the line about little black boys and little black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers is especially moving to me. Thank God for Dr. King and others who had the courage to stand up for freedom!

There is a special foreword written by Coretta Scott King. Her comments are the book include the following quote:
"His vision of peace with justice and love for everyone still inspires and challenges us to create the beloved community. His legacy of courage, determination, and nonviolence still lights the way to the fulfillment of his dream. May God give us the wisdom and strength to carry forward his unfinished work."

Amen and amen.

Listen to Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech here.

The Watsons Go to Birmingham (Christopher Paul Curtis)

The self-proclaimed “Weird Watsons” are Kenny, Byron, and Joetta, along with their mom and dad. They are all just busy living life in Flint, Michigan in the 1960s. They have school issues, work issues, and behavior issues just like any other family. When Byron, the oldest brother, begins to make some seriously bad choices, their parents decide it is time for him to spend a few months with their grandmother in Birmingham, Alabama. Unfortunately during that time, a church is bombed by racist segregationists, which deeply affects the Watson family and changes their lives and view of the world forever. 
Christopher Paul Curtis takes a very dark and sad time in our nation’s history and presents it on a palatable 5th grade level. He concludes the story with a summary of facts about the civil rights movement and the heroes who gave their lives during this time. Winner of the Coretta Scott King Award and a Newbery Honor Book, it is very easy to see why this book is such an important and effective piece of literature. This tight-knit family experiences small doses of racism in Michigan, and Curtis thoroughly communicates the differences in Northern and Southern culture during this time. 
One of my favorite quotes (by whom, I wish I knew) is that a good writer notices things that other people don’t notice. Curtis brings to light several characteristics of daily life by black Americans during this tumultuous time period. One was that the Watsons had to plan out every single rest and refueling stop for the journey from Michigan to Alabama. They knew they would have to take great care in where they stopped and tried to rent motel rooms or purchase food, because many Southern cities simply refused service to African Americans. We travel a bit, and I can’t imagine setting out for a far away destination without the knowledge that we can stop anywhere we want to for gas or supplies. Another was the way Curtis pointed out that black people and white people could be pretty much just as ignorant about one another during this time, simply because they did not associate with anyone of the opposite race. Byron and Kenny were terrified during one rest stop because they were afraid the rednecks would catch them, hang them, and eat them for dinner. There were some very ugly things that happened in Southern states during the civil rights movement, but it would be unfair to say that all white southerners were hostile.
My only criticism of this work is that it was too brief, too light, with coverage too superficial for such atrocities in American history. I would love for Curtis to have delved more deeply into the issues of this time and how the Watsons were affected by them. But then again, that wouldn’t be a children’s book, now would it?