Place to Land ( A Place to Land) Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech That Inspired a Nation


What separates us from our heroes?  Are things easier for the great people, the ones whose names we all know and revere?  Or is it hard for them too? How do they change the world?

Someone once asked Martin Luther King Jr. if the hardest part of preaching was knowing where to begin.  His answer was, "The hardest part is knowing where to end.  It's terrible to be circling up there without a place to land."

On August 27, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and gave the world the iconic speech we know.......I Have a Dream.  But on the night before, he sat in the lobby of the Willard Hotel surrounded by some great minds from the Civil Rights Movement and listening as each man there voiced his thoughts and passion and goals that needed to be heard the next day.

It was up to Martin  Luther King Jr. who sat quietly to find the heart and the soul and the message for the next day.  He worked on the speech for hours.  He wrote and re-wrote.  He crossed out words.  He searched for the pacing, the rhythm and the "perfect meaning."

It took hours of searching and rewriting.  Even during the next morning and in the hours leading up to his 3:30 speech, he kept working on the message.

This is the story of that amazing day with the thousands of people who boarded buses and came to Washington, D.C. to gather together for equality and to "convince black America and white America that walking arm in arm was the only way to save America."   This is the story of the day when "Martin stepped up to the lectern and stepped down on the other side of history."

It's so important to see the process here. It's so important for our children to understand how hard so many people worked to make this day possible and to see that change was built out of courage and determination and faith and hope.

Barry Wittenstein takes us right inside the Willard Hotel where we can listen for ourselves and be there in the moment with the men who were working together to find the words for this iconic speech.  He takes us upstairs with Martin Luther King Jr. and Andrew Young as they wrote the speech in the latest hours of the night.

He takes us up on the steps with Martin Luther King Jr. as he gives the speech he worked so hard to give and then opened the gates to his heart and his own courage and his own faith and that's when the powerful words we all remember came pouring from him... and he was "God's trombone."

Jerry Pinkney's illustrations bring us into the room where we can hear each man's voice and experience the great spirits of these courageous leaders whose determination had been forged from so many bombings, lynchings, injustice and tragedy.  He makes the history come alive as though it is happening all around us today in this moment.

This is a glorious book.  This is a brilliant book.  This book may just give thousands of young readers and listeners their own place to land. We're talking major goosebumps here.

48 pages 978-0823443314 Ages 7-10

Recommended by:  Barb Langridge,

Keywords:  speeches, Civil Rights Movement, African American, leadership, American history, role of the individual, power of the individual, 20th century, courage, discrimination, determination, racism, hope, diversity, prejudice, change, social activist, working together, biography, civil rights,  leadership,  speech, hotel, 7 year old, 8 year old, 9 year old, 10 year old, inspiration, heroes, history,  social conditions, social commentary, Social Studies Curriculum

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