My Uncle Martin’s Words for America

What It Is

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s niece pays homage to her courageous uncle. She tells readers how he used the power of free speech to protest oppression and discrimination against African Americans. Angela Farris Watkins explains “Jim Crow” laws and segregation, and how “Uncle Martin” would speak out against such practices. Highlighted in bold throughout the text are words that Dr. King lived by, such as “love,” “nonviolence,” “freedom” and “justice.” Dr. Watkins touches upon key civil rights moments, including the Montgomery bus boycott, Dr. King’s famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” and his “I Have a Dream” speech. Dr. Watkins concludes with two major legislative results, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 1965 Voting Rights act, and the message that because one man had the courage to speak, others listened and together they change America.

Why It’s Fun

It’s been nearly 50 years since Dr. King’s monumental speech, and though our nation has progressed significantly in the area of civil rights, we aren’t completely free of discrimination, oppression and bigotry. People of all ages, genders and nationalities may still experience acts of inequality. Dr. Watkins reminds us that through communication and understanding, we can motivate others and create common ground.

On January 16, we observe Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, now an annual national holiday, and this book is a great springboard for an important history and life lesson. Adding to Dr. Watkins’ simple, but meaningful text is Eric Velasquez’s painted illustrations. On each page, he presents a magnificent portrait with incredible detail and emotion.

Who’s Going To Love It

Dr. Watkins book is a fantastic selection for elementary school children either in class, or at home. While I was thinking about Dr. King’s experiences, and how to draw relevant examples for my kids, “bullying” kept popping into mind. The topic has been a major focus in their schools. Dr. King is a great example of a man who had the courage to stand up to those who “bullied” him and his neighbor. This book would be a meaningful gift or addition to any home library, and one that should be revisited every so often.

Reading Time

6-7 minutes

Read-It-Again Points

8 out of 10

Book Information

Written by: Angela Farris Watkins, Ph.D.; Illustrated by Eric Velasquez
Published by: Abrams Books for Young Readers (2011)
Approximate retail price: $19.95


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