- The Cart That Carried Martin by Eve Bunting
The slat-sided, wooden-wheeled wagon had stood outside the Atlanta antique store for some time waiting for a taker. On the day two prospective buyers arrive, however, nobody is around to sell it to them. They “borrow” the wagon anyway and paint it green, noting that “he would like that.” Two mules are hitched up, recalling the old emancipation promise of “a mule and forty acres.” Crowds pack the streets outside the Ebenezer Baptist Church, and when the service is over, a wooden casket is loaded onto the cart. It rolls through Atlanta to Morehouse College, where a second funeral service takes place. Only then is the casket placed into a modern hearse that will carry it to interment. The wooden cart is returned to the antique store, but now it is a revered artifact, sought by many, sold to the King family, and finally installed at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site. Bunting offers her account of Rev. King’s funeral procession with the assumption that listeners already know the deceased, and viewers then enter the morning’s [End Page 204] rituals with the reverent curiosity of a child who senses that something momentous has just transpired. Tate’s line and watercolor illustrations augment that feeling, as he captures in a few deft details the faces of King’s followers who are variously saddened, stunned, or numb. It is clear that everyone knows who has passed and King’s name is never spoken, making the grief that much more palpable: “The cart was not heavy. The coffin was not heavy. The man inside was not heavy. His great spirit had been the heaviest part of him. It could not be kept in a coffin.” A photograph and brief note are appended.