Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gives his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, D.C., on August 28, 1963.

Francis Miller/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images


Keeping the Dream Alive

Yolanda Renee King is following in the footsteps of her famous grandfather.

Yolanda Renee King never met her grandfather, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But the fifth-grader is one of the countless activists inspired by his actions. Dr. King helped change the course of history by spreading a message of equality for all people, regardless of their race or color.

To many people, Yolanda’s grandfather is the face of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Back then, segregation was a way of life in many parts of the U.S., especially in the South. That meant black people were not allowed to attend the same schools, get treated in the same hospitals, or even use the same drinking fountains as white people. Also, laws in some states kept many black people from voting, and a lot of businesses refused to hire black workers.

Dr. King organized peaceful protests to demand equal rights for African Americans and to try to end unjust laws. His powerful speeches inspired many others to join the cause. Sadly, Dr. King was shot and killed in 1968.

Scholastic News senior editor Karen Kellaher recently visited Yolanda at her home in Georgia. They talked about her influential grandfather and how Yolanda is trying to change the world in her own way.

Yolanda Renee King never met her grandfather, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But the fifth-grader is one of countless activists inspired by his actions. Dr. King helped change the course of history. He spread a message of equality for all people, regardless of their race or color.

To many people, Yolanda’s grandfather is the face of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Back then, segregation was a way of life in many parts of the U.S. This was especially true in the South. That meant black people were not allowed to attend the same schools as white people. They could not be treated in the same hospitals or use the same drinking fountains as white people. Also, laws in some states kept many black people from voting. Many businesses refused to hire black workers.

Dr. King organized peaceful protests. He demanded equal rights for African Americans. He wanted to try to end unjust laws. His powerful speeches inspired many others to join the cause. Sadly, Dr. King was shot and killed in 1968.

Scholastic News senior editor Karen Kellaher recently visited Yolanda at her home in Georgia. They talked about her influential grandfather. And they spoke about how Yolanda is trying to change the world in her own way.

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

Yolanda Renee King (left) gives a speech at the March for Our Lives on March 24, 2018.

Scholastic News: When did you realize what your grandfather meant to so many people?

Yolanda King: I knew he was famous from the time I was little. But I didn’t really think about how important he was to the world. I just thought of him as my grandpa. Now that I’m older, I understand more. I hear about the marches he planned, and I think, “Wow!”

Yolanda King: I knew he was famous from the time I was little. But I didn’t really think about how important he was to the world. I just thought of him as my grandpa. Now that I’m older, I understand more. I hear about the marches he planned, and I think, “Wow!”

SN: Why was the work he did so important?

Yolanda: Back then, there were a lot of things that African Americans weren’t allowed to do. They were not even allowed to live in the neighborhood where I live now. Sometimes my friend and I talk about it. She’s white, and I’m black. If we were to travel back to the 1960s, we wouldn’t be able to be friends.

Yolanda: Back then, there were a lot of things that African Americans weren’t allowed to do. They were not even allowed to live in the neighborhood where I live now. Sometimes my friend and I talk about it. She’s white, and I’m black. If we were to travel back to the 1960s, we wouldn’t be able to be friends.

SN: Are you following in your grandfather’s footsteps?

Yolanda: In some ways I am. I am also making my own footsteps. I’m starting to
give speeches at marches and other events. I spoke at the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C., about stopping gun violence. That’s an issue I care a lot about. I also want to help the homeless and protect the environment.

When I give speeches, I always end with a special chant. I ask people to repeat the words after me. It goes like this:

Spread the word!
Have you heard?
All across the nation,
We are going to be
A great generation!

Yolanda: In some ways I am. I am also making my own footsteps. I’m starting to give speeches at marches and other events. I spoke at the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C., about stopping gun violence. That’s an issue I care a lot about. I also want to help the homeless and protect the environment.

When I give speeches, I always end with a special chant. I ask people to repeat the words after me. It goes like this:

Spread the word!
Have you heard?
All across the nation,
We are going to be
A great generation!

SN: What advice do you have for other kids who care about important issues?

Yolanda: A lot of people say, “Kids, you don’t need to worry about this stuff yet.” But I think kids can definitely make a difference. They can share their dreams with the world and help make their dreams happen.

I don’t like when people say, “That’s just how things are.” It’s a way of saying that nothing can be done to fix a problem. There’s always something you can do.

Note: The interview has been edited and condensed.

Yolanda: A lot of people say, “Kids, you don’t need to worry about this stuff yet.” But I think kids can definitely make a difference. They can share their dreams with the world and help make their dreams happen.

I don’t like when people say, “That’s just how things are.” It’s a way of saying that nothing can be done to fix a problem. There’s always something you can do. 

Note: The interview has been edited and condensed.

1. Which details support the idea that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an influential leader?

2. How was life different for many African Americans in the 1950s and 1960s? Include specific examples.

3. How does the text structure of the interview differ from that of other nonfiction articles?

4. What issues are important to Yolanda Renee King? How is she making a difference?

1. Which details support the idea that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an influential leader?

2. How was life different for many African Americans in the 1950s and 1960s? Include specific examples.

3. How does the text structure of the interview differ from that of other nonfiction articles?

4. What issues are important to Yolanda Renee King? How is she making a difference?

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