We are all one human family and we need to stand up for the vulnerable among us. That was my inspiration for Martin & Anne, the Kindred Spirits of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Anne Frank, the February Book of the Month from the National Braille Press.
The idea for the book sprang up from the despair at the hate I was seeing in our country. I turned to the words of Dr. King and Anne Frank for inspiration because they had lived through the darkest times in our history and yet had never given up faith in humanity. I read the words of Dr. King, who had fought for civil rights in America and Anne Frank, who wrote in her diary about the injustice of singling out Jews or any group for persecution, and they filled me with hope.
I wondered at how Dr. King, whose life was threatened daily, said, “that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” I marveled at how Anne Frank, hiding in a cramped attic for two years from her persecutors, wrote that “people are really good at heart.”
When I saw that both had been born in 1929, the year of the stock market crash and the beginning of the Great Depression, times of great uncertainty and fear in the world, I began to see the parallels between their lives more clearly. They may have been different genders, faiths, races, from different countries, who spoke different languages, but both knew how it felt to be told they couldn’t attend their local school, Martin because of the color of his skin and Anne because of being Jewish.
The similarity of their experiences was no accident. I learned that Hitler, the leader of Nazi Germany, sent his lawyers to the American South to study the Jim Crow laws that enforced segregation, forbid marriages between Blacks and whites, and made sure Blacks didn’t have the same rights as other citizens. Hitler used those same laws as the basis of his Nuremberg Laws, which enforced segregation, forbid marriages between Jews and Christians, and made sure Jews didn’t have the same rights as other citizens.
Of course, just as Blacks were not the only group that experienced persecution in America, Jews were not the only group that experienced persecution in Nazi Germany. Hitler also discriminated against the visually impaired. Whenever prejudice is accepted in any culture, minorities are always the first at risk.
Both Martin and Anne used words to articulate their vision of a better world, Dr. King in speeches and Anne Frank in her diary. And while we lost both of them much too early, nothing can kill the way Martin inspired others, just as Anne’s words will never die.
Both Martin and Anne saw the goals of justice, love, and inclusion as an ongoing human struggle. They knew they might never live to see the world they envisioned, but they hoped their words would inspire those who followed – us – to continue the relay and to leave the world more just, more loving, and more inclusive than the way we found it.
Kindred Spirits Project
To honor them, and to help their vision grow, I created the Kindred Spirits project. Kids are connecting with kids in other neighborhoods, cities, states, and countries, to help each other, learn about each other, and celebrate all they have in common. Everyone who participates can send a photo with a caption about what you have done and I will post it on my Kindred Spirits page on my website. You will also find resources and a Teacher Curriculum/Discussion Guide.
I hope that Martin & Anne will illuminate how prejudice uses a playbook that begins with segregation and continues with laws that treat people unequally. I hope their story inspires us to stand up when we see that playbook being used, to take pride in ourselves, and to defend everyone’s right to justice, equality, and opportunity.
In Dr. King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” he wrote “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” He also wrote: “It was illegal to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. But I am sure that if I had lived in Germany during that time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers…”
At this point, when I present the book, I ask the children what Dr. King meant. Did he, a Baptist minister, have Jewish brothers? And the wise children are quick to respond that Dr. King meant that we are all brothers and sisters. We are all one human family.
I hope that if we look after each other as one human family, as Dr. King and Anne Frank did, others will see and follow the light of our example.
Learn More About the Book
Martin & Anne, the Kindred Spirits of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Anne Frank is written by Nancy Churnin and illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg. It is available in contracted UEB braille from National Braille Press. Written for ages 6-14, grade level 3-7.