Learning about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement

Dr. Martin Luther King Junior is a household name in homes all around the world.  But there are SO MANY reasons why we must still study and honor him.  I have so much admiration for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and I believe that studying his words, life works, and leadership can make anybody a better, kinder, and more empathetic person.  The Civil Rights Movement has a special place in my heart. I was able to travel throughout the south during law school to meet many of the foot soldiers of the movement and see some of the landmarks (or lack there of) connected to the movement.  I heard from people who actually lived and protested during the time.  Whose lives were literally almost lost for freedom.  I even heard from those who lost loved ones because of a hate that I will never understand.  While we have come a long way, we still have a long way to go and I want my children to understand why all of this is important.  Why we should still care.  My family is Christian and I want my children to see that the Jesus we love so much was an advocate for everyone and we need to be one as well.  We must learn from our history if we are ever to move forward.  We must learn from some of the greatest people that ever lived if we want to be better.  It is my opinion that it is OUR SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY to teach our children to care and love and grow.  To teach our children that we can not just watch impassively while others are mistreated and stereotyped. 

 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream that “one day my four little children will live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” I will be bold enough to say that in a world where a young black boy can be killed for walking down the sidewalk or a lost black woman shot at while asking for directions-we are not there.  To get there…we need to teach our children the importance of our history and why so many fought and risked their lives for Dr. Martin Luther King’s Dream.  These are the activities that we enjoyed while learning about Dr. Martin Luther King, the Civil Rights Movement, and his dream.


Media and Literature

Hidden Figures

Before Christmas, Big Sis and I read Hidden Figures Young Readers Edition  by Margot Lee Shetterly and then watched the movie.  If you have not read the book or seen the movie, I highly recommend it.  The version of the book that we read was recommended by Commonsense Media for children age eight.  I thought that although Big Sis is only seven she has advanced reading skills and would be able to read it.  And while we thoroughly enjoyed the book there were several hard words in it that she stumbled through.  It is a book about Mathematics and Aeronautical Engineering after all.  But the book is a wealth of knowledge for any child!  Big Sis read how these hard working women were treated so differently than their white counterparts. She was outraged that a professional mathematician and a grown woman was called “girl” by others that worked with her. She learned about Rosie the Riveter and the homefront during World War II.  She learned about the Space Race.  She learned about the lack of job opportunities for women with college degrees.  She realized she can BE ANYTHING including a mathematician for Nasa.  Most of all, she learned about three amazing and incredibly intelligent women that persevered during a time where a woman, and even more so a black woman, was assumed to…well…not be capable of what they were capable of.  

Book Report

I love it when more than one lesson coincidentally coincides.  Big Sis had to do a book report for her Language Arts.  So when we went to the library to pick up the books we wanted for the month, I encouraged her to find a book on Dr. Martin Luther King that she thought she would enjoy.  I told her it could be any book she wanted but it would be neat if she picked a book on a subject we were actually studying.  She found Dr. Martin Luther King by Rosemary Bray McNatt.  It is a marvelous book with beautiful folk art illustrations. The book covers his life and legacy with a detail many children’s books do not have.  She had three days to read the book on her own and then she had to complete the small and simple book report.  

Ruby Bridges

This is one of Big Sister’s favorite stories.  She is infatuated with Ruby Bridges and the bravery of this little girl that simply wanted to have a good education.  She will watch this movie often.  

Online Classes

Big Sister also took two online live streaming classes from Outschool that she really enjoyed.  She took one on Human Rights and one on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  

Discussion Points

The Importance of Protests

Big Sister and I had a discussion on the importance of nonviolent protests and marches.  We discussed how such protests have changed our country to give us the rights that we hold so dearly.  We discussed how THE BOSTON TEA PARTY was the very first American nonviolent protest that eventually led to a Revolutionary War and the birth of our country.  We talked about the WOMAN SUFFRAGIST MOVEMENT and how the importance of this movement gave women the right to vote and have more of a say about our Country.  

Tangent on Suffragist Movement:  We have been reading the Art of the Swap by Kristine Asselin & Jen Malone for fun.  We got the book from Build Your Library’s Book Crate of the Month.  It’s about a modern twelve year old that switched places and time with a twelve year old during the Guilded Age.  It’s an incredibly cute book but it also delves into the shock the young girls’ have about the rights that their counterpart can/cannot enjoy.  My favorite quotes from the book are “Everything that happens in the world today is a result of something that happened in the past…If women hadn’t protested over the years for equal rights, the world wouldn’t have so many women in positions of leadership.”  That resonated with us.

Of course, we discussed the protests during the Civil Rights Movement too and the importance of the protests being Non Violent.  We discussed that Martin Luther King Jr. wanted nonviolence because it was always important to him to “respond with love, not hate.”  I asked her what she thought would have happened if some Black Americans hit back when they were spat upon or beaten during their protests.  We talked about how easy it would be to retaliate and the bravery needed to not fight back  I asked her a few questions until she led to the conclusion herself that if the Foot Soldiers had fought back it would have been even easier to attribute the violence to the Foot Soldiers which could possibly make the movement ineffective.  I would have loved to have discussed the many different types of protests during the movement, but we simply did not have time.  That will be a fun lesson another year.


While I wanted to cover the history and philosophy for Big Sister, I merely wanted to introduce Dr. Martin Luther King Junior and his ideas to Brother.  


We checked out three books from the library to read about Martin Luther King Jr.

I Have A Dream illustrated by Nadir Nelson

This book is an illustrated edition of Dr. Martin Luther King’s most famous speech.  Reading it to Brother with the pictures gave Brother a better understanding of the words.  Plus, it has a CD of the original speech.

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

This is a great book that covers Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life from his childhood to his education and his rise to notoriety.  

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

This is my favorite one that we read.  It is a recipient of the Caldecott Honor, Coretta Scott King Award, and The New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book Award. It is a beautiful book that intertwines his biography with his words. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words are what resonates with me the most.  They are some of the wisest words I have ever read and they shaped me as a Christian.  There are so many attributes about the man that can inspire anybody, but his words are what I want my children to hear and remember when they decide what kind of adult they want to be.     


We got several printables from various websites that we used through the week.  We covered the vocabulary from Simply Kinder and read an introductory poem from Teachers Pay Teachers during Brother’s Circle Time.

We also did this fun Good Choices versus Bad Choices Graph from Teachers Pay Teachers. He always enjoys doing graphs like these and I thought it was a really good connection with the nonviolence theme.  

Arts and Crafts

We did a I Had A Dream craft from Bright Hub Education.

IMG 1372

 This Peace Sign painting from Song to Sing The Blog.

and we did this craft and read the poem With My Two Hands by Ben Harper from JDaniel’s4 Mom.


I also tried to make my own craft with the quote “A rainbow of friends is a dream we can share where everyone’s treated with kindness and care.” -P.K. Hallinan.  It was another lesson I was excited about because it tied into some others for the week.  Big Sister was learning about Pennsylvania so I wanted to do a broken crayon craft with her. (Crayola is in Pennsylvania.) And Brother was working on the letter R so I wanted to do a Rainbow Craft with him.  BOOM-Broken crayons and rainbows!!  HELLO melted crayons. THEN I found the Rainbow of Friends quote!  PERFECT!! So I decided to write the poem on a canvas, we all broke some crayons and unpeeled them (motor skills here we come) and I glued them on top of the canvas. AND THEN I put some tape over the poem to protect it from the hair dryer while I melted the crayons.  IT WAS A BIG FAIL!  Hey, I never said I was good at making crafts.  In fact, a lot of them turn out to be science experiments on why they DIDN’T work out.  The adhesive on the tape melted and the crayons covered the poem.  Boo.  BUT the kiddos loved it and we have it proudly displayed…so mission accomplished even if it didn’t go completely as planned.  


We watched Kid President’s video on Martin Luther King.  It was powerful and I will admit I got teary.  Brother even asked to watch it more than once.

Language Arts

We did this M&M experiment from Crayon Freckles. The only thing I did different was I first  Iput only brown M&Ms in the bowl and we talked about how boring the bowl looked with only one color.  In fact, Brother got disappointed when he saw that the bowl didn’t have all the colors. Which of course I played up.  I then added all the other colors to the bowl and talked about how the bowl was more fun and interesting now that there were so many different colored candies in it.  


We did this exciting I Have A Dream graphing worksheet from .  Shapes and Counting!  


Visit my blog 4 Fun Filled days “Walking in Memphis” with Children to read about our field trip to Memphis to conclude our studies on the Civil Rights Movement. And a more in depth discussion on our trip to the National Civil Right’s Museum in Our Trip to the National Civil Right’s Museum with Children.

The Civil Rights Movement is incredibly rich with history that is incredibly important for our children to learn.  It is impossible to cover all of it and of course our kiddos are young so we have time. But for me it is important to at least build a foundation, appreciation, and understanding of why this man and this movement shall not ever be taken for granted.  I hope this blog helps you find ways to teach your children about this incredibly important subject.  What have you done to learn about Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement?


4 Fun Filled Days “Walking in Memphis” with Children.

Our Trip to the National Civil Right’s Museum with Children.


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