Each year on the third Monday in January, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is observed as a US federal holiday. This year it falls on January 17th. None of our students were even born during Martin Luther King’s lifetime, nor were most of their parents, so what do they really know about this man other than what they’ve been told? Why should anyone acknowledge him other than being grateful for a day off once a year in recognition of his January 15 birth date? How might the shadow cast by his words and actions almost fifty years ago affect what we see in our world today?“Everything that we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
Fortunately, there is a wealth of primary resources available on Martin Luther King, Jr. so that you and your students can learn for yourselves who this man was and what he stood for. Students can formulate their own ideas about the shadow he might still cast today and what might be the reasons this man deserves an annual federal holiday.
On History and Politics Out Loud, listen to speeches given by Martin Luther King, Jr. in his own voice. You can hear and watch his “I Have a Dream” speech on this YouTube video. Is it still applicable today? What was his dream? Has it come true in whole or in part? How do you know?
PBS also provides multiple primary resources on their American Experience “Citizen King” pages. Watch videos from three perspectives of that time period provided in 1963 by Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and James Baldwin.
You can take an online field trip with a Virtual Tour of Martin Luther King’s childhood home. This site also provides multiple K-8 Lesson Plans/Teacher Guides as well as a Problem-Solution Project for grades 4-8.
Will you utilize these resources in January to celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King? Will they be more useful in February during Black History Month? Or will we see more clearly by examining the lessons learned from shadows cast in these resources by embedding them throughout the school year as habits of mind?
Whenever you might use them, remember HOW you use them is equally important. As Martin Luther King said, ” The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically… Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”
Debbie Perkins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.