When I was in high school, we took a trip to Washington. D.C. As we walked up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial (and there are a LOT of steps), I felt chills as we approached a plaque on the floor. The tour guide explained to us that this was the place where Martin Luther King, Jr., stood and recited his “I Have a Dream” speech. One-by-one, we stood on the plaque and imagined what it was like on August 28, 1963. Let’s just say it was truly moving, and I encourage everyone to visit the memorial at least once in their lifetime.
The “I Have a Dream” speech given by Martin Luther King, Jr., is widely regarded as one of the greatest speeches ever given. In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, here are three MLK lesson plans for homeschoolers, inspired by the speech.
- “I Have a Dream” speech analysis Examining the speech text is a great way to interact with the historical event. You can find a copy of the speech here, from the National Archives, along with an audio version.
- What’s the difference between reading the speech and listening to it? Point out the rhetorical devices, structure, and tone.
- Write your own “Dream” speech and present it in front of friends and family.
2. The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom On August 28, 1963, an estimated 250,000 people came to the Lincoln Memorial to advocate for civil and economic rights for African Americans. Bayard Rustin and A. Philip Randolph organized the rally years in advance and planned for 18 speakers. The rally was partly a call to end racism and partly to pressure the Kennedy administration to change laws.
- Check out this overview video from History.com about how Martin Luther King, Jr., was an impromptu addition to the march. Fun fact: Twelve hours before he was to speak, he still didn’t know what to say. That’s thinking quickly on your feet! After the video, write a journal entry from the point-of-view of a protester listening to Martin Luther King’s speech.
3. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 The march influenced the Kennedy — and later, Lyndon B. Johnson — administrations to pressure Congress to support equal rights and outlaw discrimination based on race, sex, color, religion, and national origin. It banned segregation in schools, the workplace, and public areas. Voter registration requirements were revamped as well.
- Explore the Civil Rights Act through an interactive app through NPR.org. With commentary alongside the law, you can see how each title corresponded with a new freedom. Think about the following:
- How has the Civil Rights Act changed America from a social point-of-view?
- Has the Act influenced later legislation (e.g., American Disabilities Act of 1990)?
- What court cases came about because of the Civil Rights Act?
These MLK lesson plans show the impact of the March on Washington, King’s speech, and beyond. Unfortunately, America is still plagued with injustice. Don’t despair — you (yes you!) can make a difference. Check out organizations such as the International Justice Mission and Sojourners. Let’s shine a light into our communities, just like Martin Luther King, Jr.!
“I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.”
What is your favorite quotation from the “I Have a Dream” speech, and why?