A celebration of social justice and those who stand for it, Martin Luther King Jr. Day falls on Monday January 20th this year. King’s actual birthday is January 15th, however, in 1983, the year his birthday became a federal holiday, former President Ronald Reagan signed legislation that established the holiday on the third Monday of every year. HSP encourages you and your students to take part in community-oriented projects or service on MLK day and invites you to take advantage of our resources when teaching about the holiday. Check out our resources on the American civil rights movement as well as artifacts dealing directly with Martin Luther King Jr..
For example, we house a letter written to Dr. King by Morris Milgram, an advocate for equality and social justice. Milgram's letter thanks King for his participation in a movement calling for “freedom of residence” in Deerfield, Illinois. Milgram also mentions and compliments Dr. King’s famous letter that he wrote after being arrested and thrown into a Birmingham, AL jail. Milgram closes his letter with anticipation of meeting Dr. King later that week in Washington, D.C., on August 26, 1963. That would be two days before the March on Washington, when Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. The HSP archives houses a 1963 flyer, which advertises the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom” and urges the public, both black and white, to join the effort. Click here to view and share a video of the actual march that took place in 1963.
Take a look at a letter written by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. himself, in which he speaks to the struggle for equality. Beginning with a reference to Abraham Lincoln, King enunciates the resolute commitment of the oppressed to overcome obstacles of segregation, racism and institutional discrimination and achieve equal civil rights. Read the letter to your class or hand out a copy to each student and inquire what specifically Dr. King writes about in terms of his involvement and plans for the civil rights movement. You will find this letter is an ideal example of the less publicized works of Dr. King. Still as eloquent as his inspiring speeches but with an administrative function: his letter seeks both social and monetary support, demonstrating a key part to leading a successful movement.
For a lesson plan, more resources and guidance on teaching civil rights in your classroom, check out our Civil Rights in Pennsylvania unit plan, in which you will find three focused lesson plans!
Have fun and be safe this MLK Day, and take pride and joy from being able to give back to your community as we remember one of the greatest men to ever do so, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr..