Martin and Mahalia: His Words, Her Song

The paintings for Martin & Mahalia: His Words, Her Song, are inspired by the tradition of civil rights speeches and gospel spirituals coming together to form a mighty force. The watercolors created for this book are intended to give visual resonance to the collaborative strength brought forth in Martin’s oratory and Mahalia’s musical prowess.

Words can be very compelling. Even small words–unity, love-can inspire. Stirred by these succinct, yet commanding expressions of hope, we chose to incorporate the words of Martin and Mahalia into the book’s scene compositions, often weaving phrases together in the same way Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahalia Jackson combined their respective vocal gifts to form an unshakable ribbon of faith.

The dove cited in the story also served as visual inspiration. This beautiful bird is shown from several perspectives. She is often implicit in the compositions, and sometimes even hidden to remind readers that peace can prevail, even when we are met with opposition.

Like the sun piercing the sky on a new day, this book’s color palette is bold and bright. This is done deliberately to express the joy we can all find in the brilliant legacy of two individuals whose vibrancy continues to shine.

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Martin & Mahalia: His Words, Her Song. Illustrated by Brian Pinkney. Little, Brown, 2013.

Martin and Mahalia: His Words, Her Song