By Angela Padrón

On August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous and unforgettable “I Have a Dream Speech” in Washington, D.C. That day he spoke about his desire for equality for all Americans, regardless of the color of their skin. For decades, people of color were discriminated against, even having segregated bathrooms, schools, buses, lunch counters and other places from white Americans. Through protests, marches, speeches and non-violent actions, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. helped others recognize the injustice. Years after his assassination, laws were finally changed to provide equal rights to everyone, no matter what race they came from.

Dr. King’s birthday is recognized every year in January on the third Monday of the month. It’s an important holiday for teachers, parents, and students in order to understand the struggles Dr. King and others experienced fighting for civil rights in our country. Talking about the holiday also helps to teach tolerance of others.

Here are some activities that can be done to commemorate the holiday:

1)    Read books about Dr. King and other civil rights leaders, such as Rosa Parks, John Lewis, and Malcolm X.

2)    Show documentaries or interviews with civil rights leaders and hold debates and discussions.

3)    Have students write their own “I Have a Dream” speech about dreams they have for society and the world in the future.

4)    Define the words racism, discrimination, race, segregation, oppression, inequality, injustice, civil rights, and other vocabulary words. Create crossword puzzles, word searches or other vocabulary activities for students.

5)    Use multicultural construction paper or crayons and have students cut out and color tracings of their hands. Then use the hands to create a heart or rainbow on a wall in the classroom.

6)    Create a timeline of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and work. Have students work in groups to illustrate each part of the timeline, then post it in the room and ask students questions based on the information.

7)    Have students write a letter to Dr. King thanking him for all the work he did for the Civil Rights movement and explaining how his life and work has affected and influenced their own lives.

8)    Read about the Nobel Peace Prize and discuss when and why Dr. King received it. Have students brainstorm a list of adjectives to describe Dr. King and his accomplishments.

Teaching students tolerance and acceptance at a young age is important so they grow up lacking the ability to discriminate or treat others badly. By recognizing and celebrating Dr. King’s birthday, we move one step closer to future generations living together in harmony.

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