Monday, January 17, 2011

Martin Luther King, Jr.

When I was growing up my brother had a small stuffed animal he called his Mississippi tiger. My father brought it home as a gift after a trip south in the summer of 1964. Yeah, I'm that old. And yeah, the reason Dad went to Mississippi was to help with the civil rights movement. I've occasionally wondered how my mom felt when Dad headed off to shoot-bomb-lynch land, leaving her at home with three kids under the age of five. But I never knew her to complain about it; I guess they both agreed it was the right thing to do.

I grew up knowing a lot about Martin Luther King, Jr. Between the ages of 5 and 11 I lived on a college campus, in the midst of civil unrest and Vietnam protest marches. We lived a couple of miles from Newark when it was burning, where I was a reverse minority, one of a handful of white kids in my public school. In later years, in American History class in a suburban high school, I was thoroughly shocked to discover that my age-mates had no personal knowledge of the social tumult of the late 1960's and early 70s. I daresay my essay about that got me into college.

Today we had a modified day off: math, writing homework, and then I read aloud some background about what the year 1963 was like, from Free at Last: The Language of Dr King's Dream by Michael Clay Thompson. The book discusses how the 'I Have a Dream' speech is written, pointing out metaphor and assonance and consonance and alliteration -- good stuff. So we pulled up the video of the speech on YouTube and watched it. Little Guy got a bit bored, but the girls paid attention. It's a good speech, worth watching. And it's worth remembering how the world was, and talking about how it is now, and thinking about what dreams we have (or still have) for the future.


  1. The time is always right to do what is right. "Martin Luther King" My very favorite quote of MLK's. Really good post today!

  2. Good for your parents. I was (re)reading some of King's speeches and writings yesterday, and wondering if I'd have had the courage to join a march where violence was likely. I did go to that peace march in NYC back in 02 (?) when people were getting arrested, but I was nowhere near that part of the crowd and didn't know about it until after.