Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Martin Luther King Jr: A Photographic Story of a Life

Martin Luther King Jr: A Photographic Story of a Life

Amy Pastan
For ages 12 and up
DK, 2004   ISBN: 978-0756603427

When Martin Luther King Jr. was a youngster he was filled with anger. Growing up in Atlanta, Georgia he saw how his people, the “negroes” or black people, were put down, were kept separate, and how they were made to feel inferior and small. Naturally he blamed the whites for this, he blamed them for the “Jim Crow” laws which made it illegal for black people to sit in the front of buses, which made it illegal for them to drink from the same water fountain as a white person, and which made it illegal for them to eat at the same restaurant.

Then Martin went to college and he began to learn that all white people were not the same, that they all did not want to oppress the blacks. He also learned about the teachings of an Indian man called Mahatma Ghandi who believed in passive resistance, in other words in opposing ones enemies but not with violence. Martin decided that he would follow in his father’s footsteps and become a preacher. He would also take on the cause of his people and he would do so through passive resistance, just as the Mahatma had done.

This was a stand that Martin would never change; he would never stop believing that peaceful resistance was the only way to win the battle against racism and the Jim Crow laws. Even when he and his followers were beaten and thrown into prison Martin insisted that no one should raise a hand to fight back.

There is no doubt that Martin’s method’s worked. People all over the country and all over the world watched the police beating defenceless men, women and children. They watched them bombing them, gassing them, setting dogs on them, and turning high pressure water hoses on them. The images shown on the television and on the front pages of the newspapers encouraged people to express outrage at the way in which the southern blacks were being treated and galvanized the government into doing something about the Jim Crow laws. It was not enough just to say that the laws were illegal – the government had to make sure that anti-segregation regulations were enforced. They had to make sure that schools were integrated, they had to integrate public transport, they had to make sure voter registration and the polls were safe and fair.

It is hard to imagine what would have happened in the civil rights movement had Martin Luther King Jr. not decided to become a part of it and this book superbly shows us that his contribution to the movement is immeasurable. We are given a picture of the man and also a picture of what was happening around him and how hard it was for him to control the anger that existed in the south between the whites and the blacks. We are given a sense of the enormous amount of courage it took for King and his followers, both black and white, to do the things they did to try to secure basic liberties for the black people of America.