Monday, January 16, 2012

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King

We honor Dr. Martin Luther King as we honor our exceptional Presidents—with a federal holiday. King never held elective office, but giving him an official federal holiday properly honors his vital, irreplaceable life’s work and acknowledges and underscores an important aspect of his struggle: that even though he was a man of vision with extraordinary leadership abilities, as a man of color, Martin Luther King could never have hoped to make a successful run for the American Presidency in his era.

There are any number of wonderful children’s books and videos that honor Dr. King, but here are a few of my favorites:

Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., written by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by Bryan Collier (cover seen above). This is a wonderful book for children four and older, and uses Kings immortal words to tell the story of his life. From his youth, when he admired his minister father and was inspired to follow in his footsteps and vowed one day to “get big words, too,” to his death, Rappaport is reverential and delivers an age-appropriate portrait of one of the world’s greatest civil rights leaders.

I’m also very fond of My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., by Christine King Farris and Chris Soentpiet. This is a very touching, personal account of Martin as a little boy, as somebody’s brother who joked around, practiced piano, and made friends. We see the affects of growing up in a segregated society from a kid’s perspective and get to know the child who was the father to the man.

For kids ten and older, a wonderful way to celebrate the life of Dr. King would be a family viewing of this excerpted version of the acclaimed television documentary series, Eyes on The Prize: America's Civil Rights Years 1954-1965, narrated by Julian Bond. It took years for this series to make it to dvd owing to complicated rights issues, but it was worth the wait. This disc is available as an affordable “one-off,” but if money isn’t an issue, the entire fourteen-hour series is also available in Eyes on the Prize Official PBS DVD Release, though its price tag of $363.41 puts it out of my range. If your local library or your children’s school library doesn’t have it, suggest it! It’s one of the true greats in television documentaries, rich in rare photographs and footage, and a fitting tribute to the work of Dr. King and all who risked their lives to make a better America. It’s humbling, but many great works are.

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