Thinking quite a bit about the late 60s right now. So I’m pulling a book from my collection to feature this week,
The story opens with an invitation:
You are here.
Let the map lead the way.
Let the dove fly ahead.
On the path.
To the dream.
To the words.
And the songs.
Take the road. Come along.
With Martin and Mahalia.
Feel the cadence of these words, all carefully chosen and punctuated to let the reader know how to pause and let the meaning of the words sink in. The illustration clues us in to the fact that we are embarking on the journey, the path taken by these two individuals whose stories intertwine. A story where we follow the dove of peace.
The first spread features Martin Luther King as a boy in church, singing.
His father, looking very much like the figure of the man Martin will become, standing behind him.
They were each
born with the
gift of gospel…
Martin wasn’t old enough to be a preacher, but even
as a boy, he had a BIG way of speaking…
Martin’s voice kept people in their seats but also
sent their praises soaring.
Same for Mahalia.
Her voice was
That girl could sure SING.
She was a jewel in Black Pearl.
Mahalia’s gospel gift could move people, too.
With Martin’s sermons and Mahalia’s songs, folks
were free to shout, to sing their joy.
These first two inspiring and uplifting images are then struck down by a sobering page turn and an image that reflects longstanding inequality and injustice, a world where black children stand outside the fence that guards white privilege.
The swimming pool is not for them.
But in the South, where Martin and Mahalia lived,
Jim Crow laws made sure things were not as free.
These laws said:
That’s how life was for young Martin and Mahalia.
Separate but nowhere near as equal.
In extraordinary, lyrical language, Pinkney describes the pair’s journey: the civil rights struggle leading to the famous March on Washington, where Dr. King would deliver his landmark “I Have a Dream” speech and Mahalia Jackson would also inspire with her singing.
It is a joyous and inspiring book. And it feels right to return to it at this moment in our Nation’s history, reminding us that we have far to go to achieve true social justice and equal rights for all. The journey is far from over. Because in reality, the work that needs to be done to dismantle the construct of white supremacy and reform its racist institutions will never be over.
Pair this book with A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara
Find a wealth of anti-racist resources at The Brown Bookshelf