Whenever you face an obstacle in life, you have two options: deal with it, or do something about it. At times, it will feel like you are not in control, and that’s when it’s important to look to powerful figures in history for inspiration. This month, we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day and February is Black History Month.
Because we feel it imperative to educate our students on crucial American civic rights events, Primavera includes interactive articles and lessons in our coursework, which we’re featuring in this blog post. Learn more about Martin Luther King Jr. and other key contributors to civic rights below.
“Martin Luther King Jr. was both a social activist and Baptist minister who became increasingly active in the fight for civil rights after facing countless moments of discrimination and racism.
By the early 1960s, MLK had become a national figure as he supported various efforts around the nation including sit-ins and other peaceful demonstrations. To this day, his words are echoed yearly and remembered as a turning point in the civil rights movement.”
Read more about Martin Luther King Jr. in this Primavera lesson.
Lesson 1: The Freedom Riders
“Beginning on May 4, 1961, 13 Freedom Riders—black and white, male and female—embarked on their challenge in two buses from Washington, DC. In a tag-team type system, hundreds of supporters of the movement joined for any length of bus ride they could commit to. The riders planned to end the trip in New Orleans on May 17, the seventh anniversary of the Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education desegregation decision. Riders were arrested in Charlotte, North Carolina, and then assaulted in Rock Hill, South Carolina, when they refused to obey ‘whites only’ regulations.”
Read the full lesson here.
Lesson 2: Rosa Parks
“Bone weary, Rosa Parks climbed aboard a public bus on a cold December morning in Montgomery, Alabama. She took a seat at the front of the bus, too tired to make the trip to the segregated section in the back. When asked to move, she refused. Failure to comply with the bus driver’s order to move to the ‘blacks only’ seating led to her arrest. This story would spark a powder keg that would disrupt the public transit system in Montgomery.
Rosa Parks’ arrest for refusing to give up her seat inspired a boycott of the Montgomery buses by African Americans in the city. Since 75% of the patrons were African American, the loss in revenue forced Montgomery officials to change the policies.
Learn more about Rosa Parks in this Primavera lesson.
Lesson 3: The Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
“With criticism from his supporters and progress seemingly reduced to a crawl, King began to make plans for another March on Washington. Yet, before this could happen, a labor strike broke out in Memphis in 1968. Sanitation workers, who were dissatisfied with their working conditions, wanted the support of King for their cause, and he agreed to come to their aid. On April 4, 1968, King was standing on the balcony of his hotel room in Memphis when a sniper shot him where he stood. Surrounded by his peers, King was pronounced dead at the St. Joseph’s Hospital.
Shortly after the fatal shot, the Federal Bureau of Investigation launched an international manhunt. They were able to match fingerprints to James Earl Ray, a former convict.”
Read the full lesson here.
Coretta Scott King
Four days after MLK’s assassination, Coretta Scott King and her four children led 40,000 followers through the streets of Memphis, to remember and to continue King’s work by protesting the treatment of the city’s sanitation workers. Dr. King’s funeral would be held the next day in Atlanta, Georgia. The funeral was televised across the nation.
To this day, Martin Luther King Jr. is credited with being one of the greatest African American leaders of his time. His vision of what life should be like led him to encourage others to advocate for social justice by taking peaceful measures. Over time others would come to realize the dream of Dr. King.
As we celebrate Black History Month, we hope you take some time to learn about the important men and women who fought for equality, and get inspired to make a difference in your own world.