Martin Luther King, Jr. was born January 15, 1929, and each year we recognize his birthday and life’s work with a federal holiday. King is well known for his efforts as a civil rights movement leader and for bringing about racial equality in the nation by using nonviolent means. The same year that King won the Nobel Peace Prize in the field of human rights, the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed.
The following activities may be good ways to help families explore the significance of King’s work.
- Learn about the civil rights movement: The civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s was the political, legal, and social struggle to gain full citizenship rights for African Americans and to achieve racial equality. Note that on August 28, 1963, over 200,000 participated in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
- Volunteer for a day of service: According to mlkday.gov, King once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’” In 1994, Congress designated the Martin Luther King, Jr. federal holiday as a national day of service and charged the Corporation for National and Community Service with leading this effort. Taking place each year on the third Monday in January, the MLK Day of Service is the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service. With your kids, look online at photos of a previous year’s day of service to give your kids an idea of what volunteering is all about.
Enrich your kids’ understanding of making a contribution to societal welfare, as Martin Luther King did, by encouraging them to volunteer . Even at a young age, kids can help by making cards for a local hospital or adopting an elderly neighbor by checking on him or her on a routine basis. Or make it a family effort; volunteer along with your kids for local community activities.
- Read the “I Have a Dream” speech: See if your kids can find King’s speech listed in the program for the March on Washington. Try reading the speech or watching the March on Washington with your kids to get a sense of content, and ask questions about the meaning and significance of selected words and phrases in the speech.
- Learn the intent of monuments: Let your kids know memorials can be made to not only remind us of a particular person or event, but the actual structure’s architecture can relay different messages and intent, as well. Impress upon your kids the amount of thought that is given when designing a memorial, such as the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.
- Locate historical places of relevance: People from all over the country traveled to Washington, DC, for the March on Washington. Learn about historic civil rights locations around the country with the National Park Service’s interactive map. Ask your kids if they see any places that are in their home state. Have them pick out a place or two they’d like to learn about, and read about it online together.
These are a few ideas for the many activities you can enjoy with your kids while learning more about Martin Luther King, Jr., and the civil rights movement.
Disclaimer: The U.S. Department of Education does not mandate or prescribe particular curricula or lesson plans. This information is provided for the visitor’s convenience and is included here as an example of the many resources that parents and educators may find helpful and use at their option.