Martin Luther King Jr. Day
learning celebrating the life and legacy
The third Monday in January is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a national U.S. holiday in commemoration of the life and works of African American civil rights icon the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. King is widely admired as role model of courage, conviction, perseverance, and non-violent activism. Because of his assassination on April 4th 1968, at the hands of gunman James Earl Ray, Dr. King did not see many of the advances in equity and opportunity made possible by his tireless efforts, including the election of the United States' first black American president, President Barack Obama.
In the United States, learning about Dr. King and the civil rights movement is augmented by "Black History Month", which is observed in February. A wonderful new tradition in celebrating the life of Dr. King is to use his holiday as a day of giving service and getting involved in social projects. See Kids Can Change the World for more information!
Inspiring reading to acquaint you with some of Dr. King's most famous speeches and advice.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia. He graduated from Morehouse College in 1948 and was ordained as a Baptist minister. While studying theology at Crozer Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania, King attended a lecture on Mahatma Gandhi's nonviolent struggle for freedom for the people of India. Gandhi's teachings had a profound effect on the young Baptist minister. Upon graduation, King received a scholarship to pursue a doctoral degree at Boston University. There he met Coretta Scott, who was studying voice at the Boston Conservatory of Music. The two were married in 1953. They had four children. King's involvement in nonviolent protest began in 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, where he led a successful boycott of the city's buses. Read More
On August 28, 1993, more than 100,000 people gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. They went there to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the historic 1963 March on Washington, led by Martin Luther King, Jr. The 1963 march has been called "the most magnificent demonstration of interracial unity that this nation had ever seen." Millions of TV viewers bore witness as the world heard King's electrifying "I Have a Dream" speech for the first time. The marchers — black and white, young and old, rich and poor — held hands and sang a song called "We Shall Overcome." It expressed their hope that "black and white together" would some day live in peace, equality, and understanding. The march was a high point in the U.S. black civil-rights movement. Read More
An angry crowd milled around the bombed-out house. Some people yelled threats at city officials checking on the damage. The house belonged to the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. On January 30, 1956, the Montgomery bus boycott was still underway. King had gone to a boycott meeting. While he was away someone had planted a bomb on his porch. King's wife, Coretta, and daughter, Yolanda, who had been in the house, were unharmed. But the crowd of angry blacks was in no mood to listen to pleas for calm. Martin Luther King, Jr. came out on the porch. He looked at the angry people on his front lawn. He knew some were ready to tear the city apart. But his face showed sadness, not anger or fear. Read More
Martin Luther King was in trouble. He had been arrested in Birmingham, Alabama, for leading a freedom march. Now he was in jail. No one could visit him. He could not make a telephone call. This was "solitary." King's wife, Coretta, was home in Atlanta, Georgia. She had not heard from her husband in two days. Finally, she felt she had to do something. Once before, King had been in "solitary." At that time, John F. Kennedy was running for President. He had called Coretta and told her he would try to help her husband. And the next day, King got out of jail.
A brief play about Dr. King, Rosa Parks, and the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
Hone your spelling and reading skills.
What's Your Dream?
Dr. King had a dream that all children could grow up in a world where they were judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character -- that is, by how they treated others and by the goodness of their beliefs and deeds. In Dr. King's dream, his wish for how the future might be, he hoped that people could be good to each other and no longer practice violence because of differences. We are lucky enough to live in a time and place where many of Dr. King's hopes are coming closer to reality, thanks to the hard work and persistence of many people dedicated to creating justice and equality for all.
What is your deepest dream for the future? What would you like to see happen in the next 50 years that would make the world a better place? Why do you think things aren't that way yet? And what would people need to do, or not do, to make your dream happen? What might you do to help it begin?
Before you can undertake the graphing portion of this activity, you will need to print and use a copy of the Mix It Up survey questionnaire. For middle school and up.
The Illusion of Race
A short and sweet introduction suitable for K-2 students. From Disney.
From the early days of American slavery through the Civil War, to modern day America this site offers a helpful overview of the arduous journey toward racial equality. Features videos, maps, and more. From the History Channel.
Grades pre-k and up.
Grades pre-k and up.
Links to further information on key topics from Slavery, Segregation, and the Civil Rights Movement to the social impact of African American involvement in sports and music.
A World Famous Speech
Watch and listen to "I Have a Dream", by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Write about or discuss your reactions to the speech. How did you feel about what Dr. King said? What did you notice about the people in the crowd? Was there anything in the speech that you were confused by?
Arts & Crafts
Print out, color and cut this activity sheet to create your own bus of passengers. Talk about the Montgomery Alabama bus boycott and Rosa Parks. For pre-k and kindergarten.
Excellent activities for ages 4-8, including making an I Have a Dream poster, a paper doll chain of classmates in various skin tones, a dove collage, and a peace plate.
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