On April 4th 1968 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot while standing on the balcony of his hotel room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis Tennessee. “The civil rights leader was in Memphis to support a sanitation workers’ strike and was on his way to dinner when a bullet struck him in the jaw and severed his spinal cord. King was pronounced dead after his arrival at a Memphis Hospital. He was only 39 years old” (history.com).
In honor of Dr. Kings memory a series of poems were commissioned and published in Drum Major For A Dream. Here at Special Collection we have a copy of this book which was edited and arranged by Ira G. Zepp Jr. and Melvyn D. Palmer. This book is full of beautiful poetry but also bound and typed artistically. Every page in the book was hand typed on a “hand operated” typewriter. The reader can run their fingers across the page and feel each letters texture. The paper pages in this book are made from maplitho paper made in India. Lastly the book was hand bound with cotton handloom sari cloth woven in India. The book was commissioned in India because of Dr. King’s admiration of Gandhi and Gandhi’s message of universal love and peace, an ideal that Dr. King hoped to replicate in the United States.
One poem from Drum Major for a Dream that I found particularly stunning was written by Charlotte Nuby a ninth grade African American student, the poem is titled He Had A Dream.
He Had A Dream
There was a man who loved this land.
But hated discrimination
And took his stand.
He had a dream, this great man,
That someday Negroes could
Shake ever white man’s hand.
He had a dream, goes the story,
That he had been to the mountaintop
And seen God’s glory.
He had a dream as a lot of men do;
But his was different because he
Was one of God’s chosen few.
He never wanted glory, he never wanted thanks;
All he wanted was his equal rights.
He was our Moses as in the past
He stood and shouted
“Free at Last”
He was shunned and criticized by some;
But he always said
“We Shall Overcome”
He fought for all to see the light
And in their hearts they knew he was right.
He fought for equality; he fought for peace
And knew that someday
All prejudice would cease.
He fought against war; he fought against strife
Until a sniper’s bullet took his life.
And when we say our prayers of silence
Remember he died for non-violence.
To see this beautiful poem and the others in Drum Major for a Dream come visit us at Special Collections located on the 5th floor of McFarlin library.