The Drum Major of the Freedom Parade

(For all children who wondered about the tragic event of April 4, 1968 at Memphis.)

My children, my children, remember the day
When the Drum Major of Freedom's parade went away.
Stop crying now little children and listen
And you will know for the future what really did happen. 

You will know why your father was solemn and grim
And why mother's eyes were wet at the rim.
You will know why the flags flew at half mast
And why all the buildings were shut tight and fast. 

The Drum Major was down in Memphis that day
Helping the workers to win a raise in pay
When an evil assassin's bullet
Snuffed his bright young life away.

That's why we were all so saddened that day
When the life of the Drum Major was taken away.
Who will come forward to stand in his stead?
Who'll be the Drum Major in the Freedom parade?

My children, our Major was such a good man
Whose life was based on the divine plan.
He loved this country, its people black and white
And believed that all should be imbued with the right. 

That's why we were all so saddened that day
When the life of the Drum Major was taken away.
We are looking for someone to stand in his stead
We now seek a new leader for the Freedom parade.

Do you know my children that he bore the brunt,
He marched unafraid right up in the front
He marched for Justice for children like you
And a bountier life for your parents too.

That's why we honor Martin Luther King
He tried with love to make Liberty ring.
He wished everyone in our tortured country
To live together in peace and harmony.

That's why we were all so saddened that day
When the Drum Major's life was taken away.
Do you know someone who can stand in his stead?
Do you know someone to lead the parade?

I hear you my children. I hear what you said.
That you children yourselves would lead his parade
That you'll carry the banner of the Drum Major dear
And march on to full Freedom without any fear.

Our spirits are lifted, our sorrows subside.
You children shall lead us with Dr. King at your side. 
You children of Freedom will stand in his stead.
You children of Freedom will lead the parade. 

March on my children to his distant drumbeat. 
March on my children, keep alive his heartbeat.
When this Peace and Freedom is finally won
Then will Martin Luther King's work be done. 

Margaret Burroughs, "The Drum Major of the Freedom Parade" from What Shall I Tell My Children Who Are Black?.  Copyright © 1968, 1992 by Margaret Burroughs.  Reprinted by permission of the Margaret Burroughs Estate.