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Friday, November 16, 2012

I Have a Dream, by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.and paintings by Kadir Nelson. Schwartz & Wade, Random House. 2012. $21.99 all ages

"I say to you today, my
friends, that even though
we face the difficulties of
today and tomorrow,
I still have a dream.
It is a dream deeply rooted
in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day
on the red hills of Georgia,
the sons of former slaves..."

Kadir Nelson says that he was honored to be asked to create paintings to accompany a new book to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Dr. King's I Have a Dream speech. It is a speech of great significance in the history of the United States during the 20th century, and one whose words ring as clear and strong today as it did then. I am listening to a recording of the entire speech from a CD that is part of this beautiful book as I write this post.

The text to be portrayed was carefully chosen, and begins with the closing paragraphs of the speech delivered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. on August 28, 1963. Mr. Nelson visited the site in order to set his images in history and show his readers what Dr. King was seeing as he spoke to the crowd gathered on the mall in front of the memorial. And, as he looks out on the people who have assembled to hear him speak, he is backdropped by President Lincoln in watchful repose. It is an apt portrait.

His four children have pride of place in a double page spread, accompanied by these words:

"I have a dream that my four little
children will one day live in a nation
where they will not be judged by
color of their skin but by the content
of their character."

His portraits inspire awe. The adults and children hold pride of place on backgrounds that allow attention to be given only to them. Glorious panels stretch across two double page spreads  showing those places across the United States where he wants freedom to ring...from the hilltops of New Hampshire to the hills and molehills of Mississippi. A stunning portrait of Dr. King stands out on a black background as he passionately shares his dream. The book ends with white doves of peace rising 'free at last' into a brilliant blue sky. Perfect!

The full text of the speech is appended.

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