When I was a young girl, my father transcribed from memory some of King’s great speeches and asked me to memorize them myself. Later, he bought old records with recordings of the speeches — ‘‘The Drum Major Instinct,’’ ‘‘I’ve Been to the Mountaintop’’ — and when I wasn’t too busy being a child, he would make me listen to them, again and again. By the time I was in high school, writing essays about the civil rights movement came easily. I had a vernacular and a mode of analysis, and also a discipline. I had learned by repetition how to question authority.
Syreeta McFadden writes about teaching nonviolence and Dr. Martin Luther King in the wake of Freddie Gray.