Honoring Dr. King & the Civil Rights Movement

Honoring Dr. King & the Civil Rights Movement

honoring Dr luther martin king and the civil rights movement

by Dr. Tehia Starker-Glass

What more do you know about Dr. King?

We honor Dr. King every third Monday in January. But what do we really know about him when we move beyond his I Have A Dream speech? What do we know about his childhood or him as a student —  high school and college? These are the questions we can ask ourselves and our children as we get to know Dr. King as a person, and not just the person who had a dream. We often synthesize Dr. King to one person who saved the country from its’ hatefulness with a speech, but he was much more than that, and had lots of help as he tried to ensure that all humans (especially Black ones) had the same basic educational, economic, housing, healthcare, and legal rights as every white person who already had those rights. So let’s explore more of who Dr. King was, and who helped him move progress towards civil rights for all Americans. 

As caregivers and teachers,  how can we move beyond the popular, but over-simplified ‘dream’ lesson, and truly honor all that Dr. King and the nation did to move civil rights forward?  

Here are some ideas.


  • Examine other parts of his “I Have a Dream” speech where he discusses injustices that are happening to others 
  • Read his other speeches, sermons, or books


  • Map out all of the places in the country he visited to see where he went to advocate against oppression 

(Critical Media)

  • Examine the pictures of Dr. MLK and examine the people in the crowd who opposed him
  • Examine how the media portrays Dr. MLK as safe and passive and compare that to his speeches


  • Research how we as a country came to celebrate Dr. MLK on January 15?  What was the process?  Who was for it and who was against it?  When did the U.S. begin to honor Dr. MLK?

(College Preparation )

  • Investigate where he went to college (Morehouse College), and examine why/how he was a college student at that age of 15

(More Ideas)

  • Compare what you may know to what else MLK did
  • Compare and contrast him to Malcolm X, another Civil Rights Leader 
  • Inquire about the legacy of Dr. King in 2021?  What are some of the injustices that are occurring today, and who are the people who are leading to stop those injustices?  Examine locally. 
  • Investigate several of Dr. King’s quotes (and when he said them) and analyze how they are applicable today. What is Dr. King telling us to do?
  • Who was around Dr. King that helped him be great? How did they support him?
  • If you could’ve met Dr. King before he was assassinated, what would you ask him? What do you think his answer would be? 
  • Examine the Coretta Scott King Awards for children’s books. What are the criteria?  Why do we have the award?  Who has won the award?


Resources to explore some of the questions above:

The Dr. MLK Encyclopedia at Stanford University

Eyes on the prize: Videos

MLK on PBS: Videos and Content

Morehouse College

The Martin Luther King Research & Education Institute


Children’s Books About Dr. King:

Dr. King Is Tired Too!! by Drs. Mac Bowman and Janaka Bowman Lewis

Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport 

A Picture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr. by David A. Adler 

Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King Jr. by Jean Marzollo 

Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr.? by Bonnie Bader 


Adult Books About/From Dr. King

Why We Can’t Wait

Letter from a Birmingham Jail

The Radical King (King Legacy), Cornel West, Editor


What more do you know about the Civil Rights Movement?

Many people misunderstand the civil rights era to be a short period of time. But actually, that time period spans over 20 years! The civil rights era began in the 1940’s, and has never truly ended. Many of the civil rights that Black Americans fought for in the 40-60’s, are the same rights being fought for now. Housing, schools, jobs, healthcare, voting rights are all current issues that affect us in 2021. It does take time to help the country move forward, and we must each take a step towards freedom and justice to get there!


Children’s Books About the Civil Rights Era

The Teachers March by Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace

Sometimes People March by Tessa Allen

Let The Children March by Monica Clark-Robinson

Separate Is Never Equal by Duncan Tonatiuh

Lift As You climb, The Story of Ella Baker by Particia Hurby Powell

These Hands by Margaret Mason

Civil Rights, Then and Now by Kristina Brooke Daniele

Granddaddy’s Gift by Margaree Mitchell

White Socks Only by Evelyn Coleman

Voice of Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford


Teacher Resources/Lesson Ideas

Facing History and Ourselves

Teaching Tolerance


Dr. Tehia Starker-Glass, Associate Professor of Elementary Education and Educational Psychology in the department of Reading and Elementary Education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.5