Why We Commemorate MLK Day
The mission of The King Center, dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy, is to “prepare global citizens to create a more just, humane and peaceful world using Dr. King’s nonviolent philosophy and methodology.” As Coretta Scott King explained,
“The Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday celebrates the life and legacy of a man who brought hope and healing to America.”
This day offers educators an opportunity to teach students about related current events and their connection to history. There are clear links between MLK’s legacy and contemporary issues of civil rights, race relations, and matters of diversity, inclusion, and equity. Teaching Tolerance provides helpful resources, for example, that highlight MLK’s efforts to address systemic racism along with a very current collection of resources to help educators connect MLK with today’s current events pertaining to the attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Our collection of public radio stories can support your teaching about Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Listen to these compelling stories, and ask your students some of these questions:
- How did the idea of nonviolent resistance influence King?
- What memories do people have of the “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington D.C.?
- What did the first version of the famous speech sound like?
- How is MLK’s son keeping the memory of his father alive for other generations?
Using public radio stories with first person audio can spark conversations about the relationship between past protests and students’ current experiences. In a story about the anniversary of the famous 1963 march, activists reflect upon Marching on Washington: Then and Now. You can discuss stories about effective protest strategies and organizing efforts and how a civil rights activist is “remixing” tested techniques. You can compare Black Lives Matter to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, which included lunch counter protests, school desegregation, and voting rights demonstrations.
Teachers and students can honor the legacy of MLK by discussing stories about contemporary civil rights activism, including protests against police brutality and racial injustice: more recently in 2020 protests to speak out against the shooting of Jacob Blake or George Floyd and protests in the streets of Charlottesville, on college campuses, and on sports fields.
- Instructional guidance from Teaching Tolerance, including “The Do’s and Don’ts of Celebrating MLK Day” and “From MLK to #BlackLivesMatter: A Throughline for Young Students”
- A collection of teaching resources for Martin Luther King Jr. Day and recommendations for “Creating Classrooms for Social Justice” from Edutopia
- An article about “Martin Luther King Jr.’s Radical Vision” from the Zinn Education Project
- A #sojustedu thread on Twitter where educators share resources related to social justice
- “Liberation Curriculum” materials from The Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University.
- Guidance about “Teaching Social Justice in Theory and Practice” from Resilient Educator