Martin Luther King Jr. Day is almost here! On Monday, January 17, 2022, the United States will be celebrating the life, hopes, struggles and accomplishments -- and the birthday -- of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
But first things first: have you ever wondered how that holiday came into existence? Author Kathlyn J. Kirkwood answers this question and more in her new book, Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me 'Round: My Story of the Making of Martin Luther King Day. It is the amazing true story of how one young "foot soldier" marched, cheered and campaigned to help make the dream of a national holiday a reality.
The book opens up with fresh-faced Memphis, Tennessee native Kathlyn playing the clarinet, performing in her high school marching band, and serving as editor of her school's yearbook. Like other mindful young African Americans of her time, Kathlyn had heard of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his quest to help African Americans and people of color achieve freedom, justice and equality for all. She knew about the strikes, boycotts and marching going on across the south. She also knew that Dr. King was coming to Memphis -- of all places! -- to march for oppressed sanitation workers, and she made up her mind to be a part of it.
Rioters and agitators turned the march into a stampede, which was a shocking introduction to violence for Kathlyn. But since Dr. King was unfazed, his fans and followers were determined to push forward. Dr. King soon returned to Memphis on March 3, 1968 to continue his support. He gave his famous speech about being on the mountain top and seeing the Promised Land, only to shot and killed the next day on March 4, 1968!
Life took twists and turns for Kathlyn after that, not only because Dr. King had been killed but because life is always full of twists and turns. Some years Kathly marched for the cause, and sometimes she took a break and lived her life. She went to college, she got married, she even had a child... but she never forgot Dr. King and all he stood for. And when the opportunity came back around some years later, she put her marching shoes back on and marched to bring recognition to Dr. King's contributions so a national holiday could be named after him.
Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me 'Round: My Story of the Making of Martin Luther King Day is a moving account of a young girl's innocence, ideals, shocking introduction to violence and death, and ultimately, her contribution to the cause for equality and justice. Fresh, fast-paced, and written in verse, this memoir is sprinkled with hope, fear, and the courage to do what's right, no matter the cost. In addition to illustrations by Ms. Steffi Walthall, Ms. Kirkwood has included authentic photos, flyers, invitations and posters that offer a glimpse into those glorious and tragic days before and after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
This amazing book should do well as a discussion-starter in middle- and high-school social studies, citizenship, and history classrooms. Great original content for Black History Month!