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MARTIN LUTHER KING DAY
View the following video interview segments. They feature Rita Dove, Pulitzer
Prize winner and former Poet Laureate of the United States and renowned award-winning
poet and author, Dr. Maya Angelou. Their comments relate to the legacy of Dr. Martin
Luther King since his death over thirty years ago. After viewing and discussing these
video segments, select a research project that fits your grade level and interests.
Join in the Celebration of Martin Luther King Day!
Former Poet Laureate of the United States.
I remember that on August 28th, 1964, I had turned 11
years old. It was my birthday. It was the day of the March on Washington. Of course,
I knew of Dr. Martin Luther King, and he was for me really a guiding light throughout
my childhood. And on that day we went down to Washington, D.C., the entire family,
and my father marched in the march and I helped my mother take care of my two younger
sisters. And I felt that moment that history was in the making and that I was privileged
to be there.
We talked earlier about the religious leaders and their
giving voice to the unspoken dreams, I think, and hopes of groups and individuals.
When I heard Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech, for me growing up among
story tellers -- in a community which was religious -- to me that was the epitome of
poetry. It was a connection of your interior life with the life of the group and
the life of the planet. It was a speech that sung and it did affect me deeply. I
think it really had quite an influence on my writing because I think that in the
end what a religious leader is, what any leader is of a community is someone who
voices their concerns and makes you realize the sacredness of human life.
One looks at the statistics and you feel that Dr. King's
dream is deferred, but I think one needs always to remember that the struggle continues.
You cannot stop and say, okay, we've gotten that, isn't that wonderful? That it is
constant and that one of the things that I think Dr. Martin Luther King concentrated
on, he knew that it was absolutely essential, that children have an education and
that education is equal before the law. If we neglect the future of our children,
then we are defeated before we begin.
Dr. Maya Angelou
Poet and Author
Yes, Dr. King's music -- The music of the "I Have
a Dream" speech is a replication of the music which comes out of the mouths
of the African American preacher, singer, blues singer, jazz singer, rap person. It's
so catching, so hypnotic, so wonderful, that as a poet, I try to catch it, to catch
And if I can catch the music and have the content as well, then I have the ear
of the public. And I know that is what Martin Luther King was able to do, not just
in the "I Have a Dream" speech but in everything he said. There was the
black Southern Baptist or Methodist preacher singing his song, telling our story,
not just black American story either, but telling the human story.
The effect of a great man or woman
is not always visible. That is to say the very fact that we are having this conversation
this morning, that there are thousands of young men and women around the country
discussing, thinking about Martin Luther King is evidence that his impact has reached
you, as well as me, and the hundreds of millions of people. What it will mean, I
pray, is that out of this kind of discussion and the various celebrations you will
have and you have had, out of these celebrations there will come an idea which may
have its birth in your mind and you may decide to make life better just for a minute
and just in the place where you are. So if you don't think of having to be grown-up
and having to have power and money and prestige and name and all that, if you don't
believe that that's the only way you can make a difference, you can be important.
Then you can start right now just where you are, there in Missoula, being a better
person yourself, being a kinder, being more courteous, trying to be a better student,
so, that you will make an impact yourself on your nation, on your race, on your gender,
and, in fact, on the world. This is how his impact can be seen, you see? So, it's
not, it's not just for people who are well-known, and big and all that, it's, the
impact is seen on the one young woman in Missoula, the young man in San Antonio,
you see, on Jorge, 11 years old, that's where we see the impact of Martin Luther
Martin Luther King Day Poster Project:
Create a poster or collage that captures the significance of the Martin Luther King
Holiday. Include images and text that capture the importance of Dr. King's life and
his struggle for civil rights. After you have completed the poster, share it with
family and friends. Ask them to help you create a list of memories, thoughts, feelings,
and new knowledge they gained by viewing your poster.
Profiles of Courage in the Civil Rights Movement:
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a famous leader of the Civil Rights Movement. He and
others peacefully worked and demonstrated to gain civil rights for everyone. Create
a storyboard for a multi-page web site that profiles the courageous acts of Dr. King
and two other leaders in the Civil Rights Movement. The web site should also feature
a list of the civil rights that Dr. King was committed to achieving for all Americans.
The History of the Martin Luther King Holiday:
Martin Luther King was assassinated over thirty years ago. When and how did Martin
Luther King Day become a national holiday? Why is it important? What do different
states and cities do to celebrate the life of Dr. King? What happens on Martin Luther
king day where you live? How do you observe the holiday at school and at home? Develop
a newspaper article that presents the history of the Martin Luther King Holiday.
Include a short timeline with photos.
Carrying on Dr. King's Legacy:
Research the life of Dr. King and the contributions he made for all Americans. How
would you describe his legacy? What ideas, actions, or dreams did he leave for us
to complete? Imagine that Dr. King could write a letter to your school. What would
it say? What would he ask you to think about? What would he ask you, as students
in the 21st Century, to do differently or better? What challenges would he give you?
In what ways might he ask you to carry on his legacy and work? Make notes as you
research his life and think about these questions. Write an imaginary letter from
Dr. King to your school that could be read on his holiday.
Peaceful Disobedience: Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King:
Other great leaders who followed a philosophy of non-violence influenced Dr. Martin
Luther King. India's Mahatma Gandhi was a major source of inspiration to Dr. King.
Research the non-violent philosophy and tactics of both Gandhi and Dr. King. What
acts of civil disobedience were critical to their leadership and vision? What were
their major achievements? What led to their deaths by assassination? To demonstrate
your understanding of their shared vision of non violence, create a multimedia presentation
that highlights their philosophy, approach to leadership, and powerful legacies.
Dream Deferred or Realized?
Rita Dove discusses the dream "deferred." Examine what the term "deferred"
means in relation to Dr. King's struggle for civil rights. What was achieved? What
is the work deferred or left to be done? On Martin Luther King Day many communities
and individuals participate in community service activities. In addition, many organizations
carry on the struggle for civil rights and justice for all people every day of every
year. What is being done in your community to achieve justice and fairness? What
are the major issues being addressed? Research local organizations that you believe
are carrying on Dr. King's legacy and keeping the dream alive. Create an annotated
list of these groups or individuals to share with your class. Identify ways that
student volunteers can get involved.
Maya Angelou describes how Dr. King sang his song of civil rights. His voice rang
out for freedom and fairness in his "I Have a Dream" speech and in many
other speeches. Research Dr. King's major speeches. Through audio clips or video,
listen to his words and how he delivered their meaning in a powerful way. Select
one speech that has the most meaning for you. Write an essay analyzing its content,
style, use of language, and historical importance. Put the speech in the context
of the time and circumstances in which it was delivered.