March On! The Day My Brother Martin Changed the World by Christine King Farris and illustrated by London Ladd is an inspring recollection of that great day, August 28, 1963, when over 250,000 people marched into Washington, D.C. to demonstrate for equal rights for black Americans and really, for all. The author, sister of Martin Luther King, Jr., paints a vivid picture of that hot summer day on the National Mall that conveys the passion and dignity of her brother and the fellow leaders as they led the events of that day.
The book is written for middle grade kids. In fact, it was my middle school daughter who brought it home to me, insisting that I read it. How glad I am. Focusing on small scenes leading to the day, and the book then opens to a panoramic view of the day at the National Mall where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his most famous speech.
There, Martin Luther King spoke of his dream before 250,000 men, women, and children. We’ve all heard that speech many times, and yet the power of that dream as he spoke it has never faded. Because of its goodness and purity, and because of the passion in King’s voice, and because of the memorable words he spoke so well, many of us can hear it in our minds, almost as if we had been there ourselves.
In perhaps my favorite part, Christine King Farris depicts the crafting of that speech the night before. Surely he already had most of this on his mind, but he labored along, in his hotel room, through the entire night to perfect and commit to heart the words he would convey. Then he dressed and prepared to go out. Receiving a call that an enormous crowd was marching to the National Mall, he rushed out and joined the other leaders to march arm-in-arm together with the throng.
Christine King Farris paints his character in small details, pointing out how his commitment to dignity and respect was reflected even down to his manner of dress and his behavior, and how both communicating his message, as well. These little insights into his character give a great deal of strength to his message, of his dream, when men will be judged by the content of their characters and not by the color of their skin. And men’s actions do reflect their character.
She also conveys a sense the faith in God that bound King and his fellow leaders together for their cause and to each other; a faith that I believe gave them strength, that enabled them to rise above the injustice of the racial prejudice and violence that poured down on them.
August 28, 1963 was a great day, but it never would have happened without men of character and strength who had powerful vision, who labored long to see that day. Now, 45 years later, we have elected a black American as President. Such a great change we’ve seen since that day.
Title: March On! The Day My Brother Martin Changed the World
Author: Christine King Farris
Publisher: Scholastic Press (August 1, 2008)