Civil Rights Leader’s Son Writes Book
Atlanta — There have been numerous books written about the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Some have detailed his work as one of the world’s best-known civil rights leaders.
Others have examined his writings, philosophy and sermons.
But one of his sons wants people to know another side of him — dad.
Martin Luther King III has written a children’s book, My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. about his life growing up the son of a famous leader, who while on the go a lot, managed to still be Daddy to his four children, Yolanda, Bernice, Dexter and Martin.
King, 55, decided to write a children’s book about his father, “because that’s where it all starts,” he said during a recent interview at the Atlanta home he shares with his wife, Arndrea, and daughter, Yolanda.
“Our most precious resource, in my personal view, is our children. So if you can impact the children to understand that nonviolence can be a way of life, then you can set a tone for generations yet unborn.”
The book is “just a small step” in reaching youths. “Children learn about Martin Luther King Jr. as a civil rights leader, maybe as a pastor and, certainly, being a father is mentioned. But my siblings and I uniquely have the experience of him being our dad.”
Although the book was written a while ago, it’s being released just in time for the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington, during which his namesake delivered the iconic I Have a Dream speech in Washington, D.C.
The book is dedicated to his 5-year-old daughter, Yolanda. She is named after his older sister, who died in 2007. She is the same age as her father was when the March on Washington was held. Yolanda and her father will read the book on Aug. 25 at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall. King, a civil and human rights activist, is one of the organizers of the March on Washington anniversary events later this month.
King, who was called “Marty” to distinguish him from his father, said there were several incidents that caused him realize that he lived in a nontraditional home.
One clue was the media attention given to him and his older sister when they and the children of the Rev. Ralph D. Abernathy were among the first black children to integrate the Spring Street School. He has vivid memories of flashbulbs going off and television cameras everywhere.
His dad would also welcome visitors to the King home that included reporters, other civil rights leaders and activists such as now-Rep. John Lewis, Stokely Carmichael and Julian Bond and entertainers like Harry Belafonte Jr., “who was in and out of our home quite often.” The book contains several stories about growing up a King, such as his sister, Yolanda, begging to go to Funtown, a local amusement park, and being told that blacks were not allowed on the roller coaster and other rides. The elder King even mentions Funtown in his “Letter From Birmingham Jail.”
King said his daughter, though she never met her famous grandfather, whom she calls “Papa King,” is excited about the book, which is illustrated by A.G. Ford. “Papa King taught us that we should help each other,” she said. And that “skin color does not matter.”
King said he may write more children’s books. And certainly one on his own life and work. He said he and his wife may also collaborate on projects down the road, perhaps involving parenting and children.
Children, he said, face unlimited possibilities “where they can fulfill their own dreams,” he said. “Dad was not just a dreamer, as some would attempt to relegate him to, but he was a doer. He showed us that we can achieve our dreams if we focus and work unrelentingly on them.”