Written by Nic Stone
Writing letters to the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., seventeen-year-old college-bound Justyce McAllister struggles to face the reality of race relations today and how they are shaping him.
Primary Source Pairing:
Justyce’s letters to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are an anchor as he navigates the rough waters of life, of high school, and of racial inequality. The letters begin with Justyce’s explanation that he wants to try and live like Martin and see where it gets him (page 13). Throughout the book, Justyce reflects in his letters to Martin about what is happening in his life and how Martin himself would handle it. At the end of the book, Justyce cites a letter written by Martin, age 17, in 1946 to the Atlanta Constitution. Justyce finds solace and hope in that when Martin was only 17 he was still figuring it all out, and that Justyce has some time to do the same. For this primary source pairing, invite students to listen to a speech given by Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee to the sanitation strike workers in 1968. This was his last speech before his assassination the following day.
Questions for Discussion:
- Describe what you see and hear.
- What do you notice first?
- Who are the people who appear in it?
- How do Martin Luther’s King Jr.’s words make you feel?
- Make a connection to King’s speech and something you read in the book Dear Martin.
- What do you infer would be Justyce’s reaction to this speech? Why? Cite textual evidence.
Book Cover and Summary: Follett
“Martin Luther King’s final speech: ‘I’ve been to the mountaintop'”: YouTube
“Kick Up Dust,” Letter to the Editor, Atlanta Constitution: https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu