In her new book Martin’s Dream Day, author and journalist Kitty Kelley shares the story of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. At that event, held on August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
Martin Luther King Jr. lived at a time when laws in Southern states segregated, or separated, African Americans from whites. The march is now remembered as one of the most important symbols of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. It was held to protest racial discrimination and to demand that Congress pass civil rights laws to ensure that all Americans have equal rights.
Martin’s Dream Day transports readers to the march, which took place in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. The book is filled with pictures of the march taken by the late news photographer Stanley Tretick.
Kelley is a well-known journalist who has written many books for adults. This is her first book for kids. She spoke to TFK about how the book came about and why it’s important for young people to learn about the march.
TIME FOR KIDS:
What made you want to write this book?
Stanley Tretick was a good friend of mine, and I inherited his photo archive. I really wanted to do something with it. Often, people end up donating pictures or negatives to a library, and they are stuck in the basement and people never see them. I was so moved by his photos of the march—and of the story—and I wanted to share them.
Why is it important for kids to see these photos and learn about this event?
This is an event that happened 50 years before most kids were born. But this is an event that has shaped their lives. This was the march that told the President of the United States and Congress that the time had come. There was no more waiting. African Americans needed their civil rights. What took place more than 50 years ago is still resonating in their lives. They need to know about it, and also about how the civil rights laws came to be and why they came to be. They came to be because parents like their parents—everybody—came together and said the time has come.
What kind of research did you do for the book?
There was a lot of research involved in writing this book. I read a lot of books. I love that kind of deep research. I was still in school in 1963 and I was not really part of this movement, which really moved our country forward. My research and writing helped me kind of become part of it.
What was it like for you to write a children’s book?
It’s very exciting. I felt very strongly about doing a children’s book with actual pictures. Most children’s books are done with illustrations. But I wanted kids to see the real thing. I wanted them to see 250,000 people gathered on the Washington Mall. It wasn’t just a march. It wasn’t just a protest. This was a message to the president and to Congress and to churches and schools. And not just for our country, but for people around the world. I am giving kids history, so I wanted to catch them and engage them.
Is there anything else you want to add about the book?
Without the march, we wouldn’t have had the Voting Rights Act or the Civil Rights Act. I realize that we have a long way to go. But I hope that children who read this book will understand the dream, and be able to dream themselves because that’s really what Martin Luther King Jr. had in mind for all children. Kids deserve to have big dreams, and they deserve to have those dreams come true.