For Educators: Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday

Activity 1: A National Hero: Martin Luther King, Jr.

Optional: Building Vocabulary

National Holidays
Grassroot Movements
Civil Rights
Nonviolent Resistance
Congressional Black Caucus
Congressional Committee
Legislative Branch


Above are listed vocabulary terms that the students will encounter throughout this lesson unit. To prepare them for the activities, have the students, through class discussion or online research, define their meaning.  Have the students write the term’s meaning on large sheets of paper to display in the classroom for reference.

Reading and Group Discussion

To familiarize students with Martin Luther King, Jr. and his dedication to the fight for an end to segregation and racism, begin the lesson with a reading assignment.  A recommended book is DK Biography: Martin Luther King, Jr. written by Amy Pastan and Primo Levi. This 128-page book is a photographic story filled with details and a new perspective based on the latest research. Through reading this biography, students will learn about inhumane segregation laws and why racism is wrong. Definition boxes teach students about nonviolent resistance or grassroots movements. On the last few pages, the author explains why Martin Luther King's birthday has become an occasion where students learn about civil rights and why many dedicate the day to spiritual reflection or sponsor activities that promote change.

You may take one of two approaches for this reading assignment; depending on how much class time you have to devote to the reading.

•Divide the class into small groups and assign each group a chapter to read. Have each group prepare a (PowerPoint or poster) presentation about the chapter to share with the rest of the class. Or,
•Assign the book as a reading assignment for the whole class.


To focus the students during the reading the assignment, you may want to distribute to them Worksheet 1: Who is Dr. King? For the students to record their answers to the following questions:

•Who was Martin Luther King, Jr.?
•What tactic did he use to end segregation and raise awareness of the wrongs of racism?
•Why is it important to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. and celebrate his achievements as a national holiday?
•How does the legacy of Dr. King impact your life?
•What would you like to do personally or for your family or your community that would honor Dr. King’s legacy and advance his desire for justice for all Americans?


When the students finish the assignment, engage them in a whole class discussion about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the importance of honoring him as a national holiday.

Video Documentary

Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Mini Bio
A & E Networks Digital, Biography Channel, January 2010 (5 minutes)

Prior to viewing the video, distribute to the students Worksheet 1: Who is Dr. King? To record information they learn about Dr. King. Following the video, engage the students in a whole class discussion about Martin Luther King, Jr. and why it was so important to members of the CBC and many American to honor with a national holiday.

additional information and links.