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Justice and the Citizen:
Justice and the Citizen:

Justice and the Citizen:
"A Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr." Vol. I

Teacher's Student Activities


History, Citizenship, Government


Literature and Communications, Global Studies, Mathematics


  • To study evaluation and impact of civil rights in the postwar era
  • To examine the impact of Dr. King and his belief in nonviolent protest
  • To examine how the U.S. Constitution has been instrumental in civil rights for all Americans


Examine these guide materials.Have students complete the pre-program activities so they will be ready and able to participate in discussions regarding the program.


Originated from Harvard Law School and Atlanta


Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou is Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She is one of the great voices of contemporary literature. Professor Angelou is a poet, educator, historian, best-selling author, actress, playwright, civil rights activist, and the first black woman director in Hollywood. She is best known for I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, the first book in her highly acclaimed five-volume autobiography, which was praised for its lyrical prose and powerful descriptions. In the 1960s, at the request of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., she became the Northern Coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. This passionate and remarkable Renaissance woman is the recipient of many honors including honorary doctorate degrees from more than 30 colleges and universities across the nation.

Alan M. Dershowitz
Alan Dershowitz is a Professor at Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is also the nation's pre-eminent civil libertarian and defense attorney extraordinaire. Professor Dershowitz is a graduate of Yale Law School, where he was first in his class. At age 28, he was appointed the youngest full professor in the history of Harvard Law School. He went on to become "the most creative, most controversial, and most sophisticated criminal lawyer in the country." Mr. Dershowitz is the best-selling author of The Best Defense, Reversal of Fortune, Chutzpah, and Contrary to Public Opinion. His list of clients include Claus Von Bulow, Jim Bakker, Jonathan Pollard, Leona Helmsley, Patricia Hearst, Michael Milken, and Mike Tyson. Mr. Dershowitz is acclaimed as "America's most articulate and uncompromising protector of the rights of criminal defendants."


Even though black Americans had come out of slavery, which was abolished in 1863, they continued to suffer the effects of racial segregation well into the middle of the twentieth century. In every sense they were second-class citizens: they couldn't eat in the same restaurants as whites, couldn't use the same restrooms, couldn't drink water from the same fountains. They sought life's advantages from the back of the bus. Prejudice and bigotry existed throughout the country to varying degrees, especially in the South, and their effects went largely unchallenged until 1955, when the leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr., emerged in the quiet town of Montgomery, Alabama.

Rosa Parks, a seamstress, was arrested for refusing to give up her seat in the front of a bus to a white man. Although new to Montgomery, Martin Luther King, Jr., was made head of the Improvement League and he started rallying support for a citywide bus boycott. Fifty thousand blacks joined together to refuse to ride the Montgomery buses until their demands for desegregation had been met. The whites responded angrily to the boycott and bombed King's home. But King urged nonretaliation. His tactics led to the movement's first victory. Faced with the economic reality of empty buses for fifteen months, the courts declared Alabama's bus segregation laws unconstitutional.

At this time, segregation by race had already been ruled unconstitutional by courts in many areas, but many of these edicts were not being carried out. In cities across the South, change was not imminent, and peaceful civil rights protests were met with violence. Benjamin E. Mays, President Emeritus of Morehouse College in Atlanta, in explaining that King was basically just following the teachings of Jesus and the Bible, said, "We preached it and we talked about it, but it was talk and no action, and he (King) made it walk on the ground."

In 1962 in Albany, Georgia, when hundreds of marchers, including ministers and rabbis from the North, were arrested for "making it walk on the ground," support began to grow in Washington from an already impatient President John Kennedy. But apparently the time for change was still not ripe.

The explosive confrontation between demonstrators and police in Birmingham, Alabama, in the spring of 1963, in which 5,000 marchers including King himself were jailed, brought the case to the attention of the "national community." Kennedy, recognizing the significance of the event, met with Congress and called for a sweeping civil rights act.

Three months after Birmingham, King arrived in Washington to lead 25,000 black and white citizens in a massive show of support for the civil rights bill before his belief that freedom for one group meant freedom for all groups. . . . when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: 'Free at last! free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!'

After Kennedy's assassination, President Lyndon Johnson continued to urge the enactment of sweeping civil rights legislation in 1964. In the same year, Martin Luther King, Jr., was the youngest recipient of the Nobel Prize for Peace.

King returned to the South to continue to lead the movement. Up to that point, most of the issues were basically issues of human dignity; but the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in 1964 and the incident in Selma, Alabama, in 1965, began to address political questions. King's belief was that changes could also be attained through the vote, and a grass-roots campaign began primarily in the rural counties of Mississippi and Alabama to register black voters. National attention focused on Selma, Alabama, where civil rights demonstrators were brutally beaten by local police. Thousands of supporters arrived in Selma to continue King's walk to the state capitol, which was the culmination of the movement's drive for voting rights in the South. In August 1965, President Johnson signed a bill that reaffirmed the right of black Americans to vote.

The decade from 1955 to 1965 saw the accomplishment of many extraordinary changes, and with those accomplishments behind him, King turned his attention to the poverty and poor conditions in the ghettos of the North. Discrimination in the North manifested itself most notably in housing and jobs, and in the summer of 1966, when riots broke out in the northern ghettos, King brought his nonviolent movement to Chicago. But in all-white neighborhoods of Chicago and in the frustrated black ghettos across the North, his nonviolent philosophy met its greatest opposition, and even black leaders in King's movement began to question its effectiveness.

In 1967, King turned to another major issue -- the war in Vietnam. I speak out against this war because I'm disappointed in America, and there can be no great disappointment where there is no great love. I'm disappointed with our failure to deal positively and forthrightly with the triple threats of racism, economic exploitation, and militarism.His stand lost him the support of the Johnson administration and further damaged his leadership within the civil rights movement. But his work continued until the spring of 1968, when he interrupted his plans for a Poor People's March on Washington to return to Memphis to support striking city sanitation workers.

There he was assassinated at the age of thirty-nine.


Affirmative Action plans:
plans for government, the courts, and private companies, designed to speed the process of redressing discrimination against women and minorities

Civil liberties and rights:
the freedom and rights of citizens that cannot be infringed upon by the government

the act, practice, or instance of judging categorically rather than individually

Due process of law:
accused people must receive equal treatment under established procedures

the share or proportion assigned to each part in a whole or to each member of a body


This guide provides lesson suggestions for at least one school week (5 days) that you can tailor to satisfy your academic requirements. For example:

Day 1 -Review Background in Teacher Guide and identify curriculum connections that are most relevant to your class.

Day 2 -Review materials, with a special emphasis on the biography of program guests.

Day 3 -Program

Day 4 -Review the program with your students

Day 5 -Select and complete assignments for the curriculum areas you identified Day 1 from the After the Program section of the Teacher Guide.

Regardless of what curriculum you are teaching, your students will benefit more from the telecast if they complete the pre-telecast activities. Review the books by and about the featured guests and the reasons they are on the program.

Discuss the following with your students:
What do you know about the life of Dr. Martin Luther King?
Dr. King said, "One of the great glories of a democracy is the right to protest for right." Dr. King also said, "The strong man is the man who can stand up for his rights and not hit back." Do your students agree with these statements?

Why or why not?
You may wish to duplicate the Time Line - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., at the end of this guide as a tool for students to use in preparing for the program and as a reference during it.


Curriculum Connections-History, Citizenship, and Government

1. Have students examine the U.S. Constitution and report on the following:

What does the Constitution of 1887 say about who is eligible to vote in the U.S.?
How do the following amendments change this: 14th, 15th, 19th, 24th, 26th? Ask student to discuss which of these amendments in their opinion redress discrimination.

2. Have students read and analyze the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision. Why was educational equality one of the first demands of the civil rights movement? You may wish to duplicate the Issue Analysis at the back of this guide as a tool for students to use in analyzing the case.

3. How did the thrust of the civil rights movement change in the mid-60's? Why was it necessary to create a bill to reaffirm the right of black Americans to vote?

4. In order to speed the process of redressing past discrimination, the courts, government, and private companies began Affirmative Action plans. These plans, in turn, have often been the target of litigation brought by those who feel they are being discriminated against in favor of a minority. Have students research the issues involved in some of these cases (e.g., Regents of University of California v. Bakke.)

5. In what ways did Dr. King's involvement in protest against the war in Vietnam damage his leadership in the civil rights movement? Have students research and report to the class on news articles from 1967 and 1968 pertaining to Dr. King.

6. Did the thrust of the civil rights movement change after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.? In what ways?

Curriculum Connections-Mathematics

1. America's struggle to achieve equality for all citizens has progressed "two steps forward, one step back." Have groups of students research the events on the Time Line Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in the back of this guide. On the X axis of a graph, have students place the time line events. Number the Y axis from O to 10 with O indicating high evidence of discrimination and 10 indicating complete equality. In a large group rate each event on the time line and mark the Y axis. Using the resulting graph, help students analyze the course of discrimination against black Americans during Dr. King's lifetime.

2. Have other groups of students research significant events affecting minority groups and women other than black Americans. The time period should be the same as for activity 1. Have students prepare a "Discrimination Graph" for these events, just as they did for activity 1. Then have the groups discuss their graphs and make comparisons between them. As they discuss discrimination, you might ask them to discuss the problems they encountered in trying to rate discrimination.

3. Have groups of students research and prepare a "Post-King" Discrimination Time Line. Help them work collaboratively to prepare a Discrimination Graph for the period from Dr. King's death to the present.

Curriculum Connections-Language Arts, Public Speaking, Debate

1. Have two groups of students research the following questions and then stage a debate: In what ways did Dr. King's philosophy inspire the tactics used by other minority groups to overcome prejudice? What effects do you think his leadership would have on the movements of various protest groups today had he lived? Would he have become involved in their causes as well, and why or why not?

2. Get a copy of the music and lyrics to "We Shall Overcome" so you and your students can sing it. This is the song associated most closely with Dr. King and the Civil Rights movement. Ask the students to discuss:

Is this a civil rights song?
Why is the song so enduring?
Encourage students to compose additional verses of their own and teach them to each other.

3. Encourage students to read and report on writings by Dr. King and other civil rights leaders. Readings might include:

Dr. King's "I Have A Dream" speech
Dr. King's Letter From a Birmingham Jail
Dr. King's "Why We Can't Wait"
Dr. King's "Stride Toward Freedom"
Frederick Douglass' Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave

4. Encourage students to read books written by the program guests, Dr. Maya Angelou and Alan Dershowitz. See Books By and

Curriculum Connections-Global Studies

1. What is the psychological impact of nonviolent protest? Have students, working with partners, research passive resistance in other times and in other places. How effective have such movements been?

2. Have students, working in groups, select a region of the world and a time period. Have them research discrimination in that region during the selected time period. Some examples to get them started might include: France-16th and 17th century; Cambodia 20th century; Russia-19th century; Ireland-20th century; Japan-20th century; South America-17th century.