Jan 15, 2018

Happy ACTUAL Birthday, Martin Luther King, Jr.

Scholasti reprint, 2006

Portions of this post are reprinted from a post three years ago, which in turn linked back to one of my first posts when this blog launched six years ago.

It's no wonder that few people realize that Washington's birthday is February 22, Lincoln's birthday is February 12, and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday is actually today, January 15. Designating official MONDAY celebrations for his commemoration and also for President's Day next month may allow federal and some other employees/schools to enjoy three-day-weekends, but my hope is it will focus more attention on the accomplishments and integrity of these incomparable leaders than simply getting discounts on linens.

Monday is the routine day for garbage collection at my curb. I couldn't find the calendar indicating changes, so I called the service to ask if it would be moved to tomorrow. The young woman who answered had no idea why it would be, and when I cited this holiday, Martin Luther King's Birthday, she quickly said, no, that's not a real holiday. That statement is sad, even tragic, made more so because this is the fiftieth anniversary of the garbage collectors protest.  This is the very reason why MLK, Jr. was in Memphis when he was assassinated. If the history of that protest and the reasons for it are new to you, or forgotten, please take a moment to click HERE and learn more.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MARTIN LUTHER KING, written by Jean Marzolla and illustrated by J. Brian Pinkney is one of the MANY books about MLK, Jr., one that focuses directly on his birthday. 

While reflecting on my six years of sharing reviews, interviews, and thoughts about the unlimited power of picture books for all ages, I reread my first-ever post on this holiday, written as an open letter to Martin. It included this: 

"Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King, Jr.
You’re a hero to so many, but I’d like to take a moment to tell you why you are mine.
When sharing your accomplishments with students, describing the doors you opened, opportunities you produced, changes resulting from your leadership in the USA and the world, my admiration is evident to them. 
Then I tell them about my experience in high school."

My post included links to a few outstanding titles, but there are numerous other titles released before and since that are being featured across the blogosphere. They can be found easily enough, and I urge readers to seek them out. Some places to start include Reading Rockets, this New York Times Review,  Colours of US, BookKidsBlog, and one of my earlier posts. 

I urge you to begin today to read and gather these and other books that are inspiring, informative, and entertaining. Share them, today and throughout the widely recognized Black History Month. But I beg you, PLEASE, to continue to display, circulate, reference, and read aloud these and other books throughout the year. It's not surprising that our compartmentalizing of the struggles of history and the inspiring lives of leaders has fostered generations of people who readily see powerful truths as slogans and symbols to be waved about on specific days, but not integrated into our lives.

The post I quoted above, my letter to Martin Luther King, concluded with this:
"Because, thanks to your leadership, risks, and sacrifices, along with those of so many others, now every one of those schools accepts women. That change took place too late for me.
So, Martin, not just on your birthday or during Black History Month, I thank you for your vision and accomplishments. You threw open the doors of opportunity for me and for everyone else to live in a country that guarantees equality, or recourse when that has been denied."

Those words are as true today as ever, but are also are greater risk than they have been since Martin walked among us. Recent events across the country (the world, in fact) make them even more true today. I chose to wrap my thoughts around a mix of previous readings and writings because they continue to shape every day of my life. I hope you'll take the time to read the rest of the that early post, here.
Then find ways to honor my hero in every day life.


  1. Thank you for the reminder about the dangers of compartmentalizing!

  2. Absolutely, Annette. Kids follow our leads, and if the books "come out" then "pack away" they learn to see history as unrelated to daily lives. Thanks for reading and sharing thoughts.


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