Marlena says of this painting:
"I wanted to paint Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta, surrounded by children because a huge part of their legacy was educating the youth in nonviolent protest."
King would say, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”, and encouraged them to join the movement. Most of the black children of the south had parents who already attended meetings, boycotted local businesses, and marched against discrimination. They were excited to join the protest as tensions reached an all time high.
In 1963, America watched as thousands of black children got blasted by fire hoses, attacked by police dogs, and ended up imprisoned. The violence continued but more brave children joined the protest. King praised their actions, “What you do this day will have an impact on children yet unborn”. His prediction was correct. The Children’s Crusade was the event that moved President John F. Kennedy to fully express his support for civil rights legislation. The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964.
Background re: MLK, Jr.
The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Baptist minister, and the most recognized leader of the American Civil Rights Movement until his assassination on April 4, 1968. Throughout his adult life he championed non violent resistance and civil disobedience as means of protest toward Civil Rights abuses, primarily toward African American Citizens. His influence using these techniques carried over to poverty, segregated housing, and Vietnam war issues, and resulted in him being arrested multiple times. He was the first president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, (SCLC) organizing it, unsuccessfully, in a struggle against segregation in 1962 in Albany, GA. He helped organize the nonviolent protests in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. He helped organize the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.
On October 14, 1964, King won the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolent resistance. In 1965, he helped organize the Selma to Montgomery marches. He alienated many of his liberal allies with a 1967 speech titled "Beyond Vietnam". J. Edgar Hoover considered him a radical and made him an object of the FBI's COINTELPRO from 1963 on. FBI agents investigated him for possible communist ties, and reported on them to government officials, and on one occasion mailed King a threatening anonymous letter, which King interpreted as an attempt to make him commit suicide.
King was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. Martin Luther King Jr. Day was established as a holiday in numerous cities and states beginning in 1971; the holiday was enacted at the federal level by legislation signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986. Hundreds of streets in the U.S. have been renamed in his honor, and a county in Washington was rededicated for him. The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., was dedicated in 2011.