The 1960s were very volatile years. Black people had been mistreated for decades (or should was say, since the dawn of America), and it finally came to a head. As many civil rights movements went, it got worse before it got better. The injustices perpetrated against black people were horrific, and we won’t cover that here, because this post is geared towards teaching children to appreciate equal right. As protests broke out, and men and women began to stand for equal rights, many times the pushback became violent. As the voice of the oppressed grew stronger (as did the emotions on either side), it could have resulted in another civil war in our country. One reason why the Jim Crow laws and clear civil injustices were resolved (to some degree) without utterly dividing our country is that one leader for the cause of equal rights support peaceful change. That man’s name is Martin Luther King Jr.
While there are still men and women alive to day who were there to see those dark days, our children are now fifty or sixty years removed from the heroic leadership of MLK. It is critical that we teach them about this era, for the sake of their future. As the saying goes, “If we forget our past, we are doomed to repeat it.” There are already many examples arising of civil unrest in our day and age. To help the newest generation understand the great contribution that MLK made to our country, we put together a list of creative lessons:
Three Creative Ways to Teach Children About Martin Luther King Jr
- Bring the past alive with a MLK audio documentary.
One of the many gifts that MLK used to lead our country into a peaceful transformation of civil rights was his gift of speech. In his life, he gave more than 2,500 speeches (sometimes more than one per day) and in doing so, creating a phenomenal historical footprint.
There is no better way to teach your children about the incredible contribution that he made to American history than through his own words with a MLK audio documentary. You can find a good MLK audio documentary at the library, several sources provide them online, or from a historical society. There’s no wrong speech to share with your kids, but an MLK audio documentary on the famous “I Have a Dream” would definitely have a profound impact on your kids’ view of history.
- Bring it full circle by getting involved yourselves.
Martin Luther King Jr made an incredible dent in the injustices of his time, but unfortunately he didn’t erase civil problems from the face of the Earth. There are civil rights issues today, and there will be tomorrow. A key part of making sure that the good always comes out on top is good people staying vigilant in regards to injustices and not being afraid to get their hands dirty.
Take them to peaceful marches for social change. Take time to volunteer at causes that you guys feel strongly for. Talk about social injustices that are current today, and get them brainstorming ways that they can make a change for the good. You can help your kids become civil rights warriors and give them a first-hand taste of what MLK stood for by getting them involved in today’s civil rights issues.
- Make Martin Luther King Jr Day a big deal in your household.
In 1986, the contribution that Martin Luther King Jr made to our country was recognized as a federal holiday. The further we get from the volatile 1960s, the more children just think Martin Luther King Jr Day is nothing more than a day off of school, like parent-teacher conference day. You can change that in your kids’ point-of-view though. Take them to Martin Luther King Jr Day festivals or recognition events that celebrate the historical figure.
If you live in the southern United States, it won’t be hard to find Martin Luther King Jr celebrations. If you’re located in an area that wasn’t as impacted by MLK and less likely to observe it, create your own celebration. Throw an MLK party. Make it fun, and open the eyes of your kids and their friends, for the rest of their lives!