Fifty years ago this Wednesday, on August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his now-famous “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. During the march, about 250,000 people gathered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., to demand equality in an era of segregation and brutal police suppression of peaceful civil rights demonstrations. The march is credited with bringing pressure on Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Wednesday will be marked by marches, concerts, and other events in the nation’s capital, including an address by President Barack Obama at the Lincoln Memorial. All of this comes in the context of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, which struck down portions of the Voting Rights Act and allowed nine states to alter their voting laws without advance approval by federal authorities.
Teachers can engage their students in grades 7-12 in a discussion of civil rights and nonviolence with Martin Luther King Jr. and the Power of Words, a lesson plan in which students discuss how words have the power to bring about political, social, or economic change in society. Students also reflect on the words of Martin Luther King Jr. and determine their relevance to the political, social, and economic issues of today.
A video of the final portion of King’s speech is featured in the newly released We the People: The Citizen & the Constitution enhanced ebook for high school students in Lesson 29, “How Does the First Amendment Protect Free Expression?” as an example of the power of free expression in a democratic society. Lesson 29 is available online as a free sample lesson (registration required).
Lesson 35 of We the People, “How Have Civil Rights Movements Resulted in Fundamental Political and Social Change in the United States?” is included new enhanced ebook and a pdf from the previous edition of the textbook is available from the Center’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day page. In both books, Lesson 35 examines the struggle against segregation by the civil rights movement. It examines the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and delves into a discussion of civil disobedience and modern civil rights movements. The page also contains a lesson for middle school students that also examines the civil rights movement and the struggle for equal protection.