I love the picture below of Dr. King with his children. I have such a deep respect for him, for his family, for those who followed his vision. This picture reminds me of childhood, its innocence and acceptance. It also reminds me of a line from one of Langston Hughes poems that states: “Where is the Jim Crow section on the merry-go-round?”
|Martin Luther King Jr with his son Martin III and daughter Yolanda. Photo:Marvin Koner/Corbis|
Over the past couple of months, as I have talked with my kids about the Civil Rights Movement, I have come to realize that while my kids don’t get the nuances and complications of slavery and race relations, they do intrinsically get what Langston Hughes meant – that we are all in this together.
At the local elementary book sale about a year ago, we bought the book Henry’s Freedom Box about the Underground Railroad. It quickly became my kids’ favorite bedtime story.
Henry is raised in slavery but grows up and marries a girl he loves. They have children and their owners allow them to stay together even though they have different masters. One day, while Henry is at work, his wife’s master sells her and her children at the slave auction. This breaks Henry’s heart and he decides he wants something different. So, with the help of some other people, he ends up mailing himself in a box to North.
You can image the questions my kids had after our first reading of this story. Why could someone sell his family? Did he get to say goodbye? Why did he have to mail himself? What’s a slave auction? Did he see his family again?!? Mr R had big crocodile tears when we read that Henry’s family was sold. It was heartbreaking! How did people do that to one another?
In addition to Henry, we also found and read about Ruby. We bought the book for a dollar from a teacher friend. This story is about the six-year-old Ruby Bridges (a year older than Miss S) and her integration in 1960 into an all-white school. A judge orders Ruby to attend first grade at William Frantz Elementary. This book talks of her faith, of her being escorted into the school, of the white mobs that didn’t want her there.
Again, my kids had questions after reading this book. We talked about being brave and why that mattered. We talked about why adults would be yelling at this little black girl and withholding their white kids from school just because she was there. We talked about the importance of education and making the most of every opportunity. We talked about prayer (because Ruby prays for those who are yelling at her). Feisty Miss S said she would beat them all up since they were being mean to Ruby. Love that girl. She’s young but she gets that people were being unkind to Ruby even if she doesn’t understand all the reasons.