My Uncle Martin's Words for America

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My Uncle Martin's Words for America

In the time before African Americans held the office of Supreme Court Justice, President of the United States, or flew into space as an astronaut, the Jim Crow laws dictated whites would drink out of water fountains and where blacks would drink out of water fountains. Jim Crow told folks where they could go to school and made sure the world was divided into two places to grow up. There was the world for blacks and the world for whites. Into this oppression came the voice of Martin Luther King Jr. who chose the path of non-violence to create the change he believed in. This is his mission as seen and described by his niece. She focuses on the positive words he used as his levers and winches. He spoke of love, justice, freedom "and people listened and things changed." Eric Velasquez's illustrations capture moments of people making history through courage and determination. Inspirational. 40 pages Ages 7-10

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This picture memoir of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is told through the images and experiences of his niece, Angela Farris Watkins, who was a young girl during her uncle’s rise to prominence in the Civil Rights movement. Dr. Watkins discusses the key events children need to know to understand the times and the important events that brought change to so many Americans who were living in a separate-and-unequal United States. The tone of the text is child-friendly without glossing over the stark reality of the ugliness and brutality of the times.

Illustrator Eric Velasquez’ oil paintings are realistic, proud, and authentic. Children will be able to glean more information about the time period through his illustrations: the range of important African Americans of achievement, such as astronauts Guion Bluford Jr. and Dr. Mae Jemison, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, filmmaker Spike Lee, and humanitarian Oprah Winfrey; the eloquence of the Reverend King at the pulpit; the pain and determination in the faces of Dr. King and his wife as they hold their child in front of their bombed-out home; officers with police dogs quelling marches; and finally diverse people all standing together in a crowd with an interracial handshake superimposed over the setting.

Both the author and the illustrator include notes on their work. A comparison chart shows some of Dr. King’s actions and the civil rights that were gained by his work. A glossary explains the important terms, many of which are used for emphasis in the text. Two bibliographies are included, one for adults and one for children. Captions explain some of the famous people in the illustrations, and an index helps young readers refer back to the text. This book is an accessible and important book to share with children—of all ages!

Recommended by Shari Shaw, MLIS, Librarian, Michigan, USA

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