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.”
“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. Learning for Justice provides helpful resources, for example, that highlight MLK’s efforts to address systemic racism along with a collection of resources to help educators consider MLK’s message in light of the 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Listenwise MLK Podcasts
Our collection of podcast lessons can support your teaching about Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Consider listening to these compelling stories about MLK, and asking 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?
- How did MLK channel anger into positive action?
Hearing podcasts with first-person accounts can spark student conversations about the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, which included lunch counter protests, school desegregation, and voting rights demonstrations. Building students’ background knowledge about these topics may lead to engaging conversations that evaluate and compare historical and modern protest strategies and organizing efforts.
Teachers and students can also honor the legacy of MLK by discussing stories about contemporary civil rights activism. Our Black History – Civil Rights Movements collection features stories about the events, efforts, and people involved in both the historic and contemporary Black civil rights movements. The collection includes podcasts about the modern Black Lives Matter movement, removing statues of historical figures with complex legacies, activism among today’s youth and professional athletes, and the guilty verdict in the murder of George Floyd. Using the podcast lessons from this collection may help students understand how MLK’s legacy is relevant to their life experiences.
- Instructional guidance from Learning for Justice, 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