Kadir Nelson is known for his incredibly beautiful children's book illustrations, including the 2013 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book, I Have a Dream. Today marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s groundbreaking "I Have a Dream" speech and Nelson shares his thoughts on what it means to him and how that influenced his experience illustrating I Have a Dream, a gorgeous picture book that includes an audio CD of Dr. King's complete speech, as it was delivered on August 28, 1963.
The 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's I
HAVE A DREAM speech is a powerful occasion for me--every time I
listen to the speech, it stops me in my tracks. I can remember the first time I
heard it. I was in the 5th grade and my class assignment was to memorize
and deliver the speech. And as I stood before my class the following morning,
Dr. King's words poured out of me. As an
unexpected side effect of speaking his powerful words, I somehow felt stronger,
more confident, and very proud.
the years, I have created hundreds of paintings and illustrated books about a
multitude of themes, and with each story I have made it a point to show the
strength, love, and light that dwells within every character.
set about the great task of illustrating Dr. King's marvelous words, I felt
weighted with the responsibility of getting it right.
I began painting I listened to Dr. King's speeches, I poured over books,
hundreds of photographs, and I watched documentaries. I even traveled to our
nation's capital to further enrich my appreciation of Dr. King's experience.
walked along the water's edge all the way up the stairway of the Lincoln
Memorial to the spot where Dr. King spoke, I looked out over the landscape and
imagined what Dr. King saw as he stood there almost fifty years ago, and took
it all in. I felt privileged and humbled
by my great task.
could I illustrate Dr. King's powerful words? I decided to use a progression of
realistic and straightforward images to describe the setting and mood of the
day of the speech, while also setting the stage for the jump to the images of
Dr. King's dream. And as matter of contrast, the images that describe Dr.
King's dream are more conceptual. As the speech progresses and the dream
becomes clearer, both dream and reality merge with a fuller and more colorful
result is I HAVE A DREAM a celebration of Dr. King's magnificent words that
continue to move Americans from all walks of life to share his dream. It is a
privilege to share it with you and I hope that the experience children will
gain from reading Dr. King's powerful words will make them feel stronger, more
confident, and inspire readers of every age to contribute in their own way to
Dr. King's dream for America. --Kadir Nelson