Did you know that Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is not only a national holiday, it’s also a national day of service? In fact, it’s the only federal holiday with this designation. Throughout his life, MLK, Jr. emphasized the importance of service in communities. So not only does this day celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy and what he accomplished, strove for, and stood for, but it is also a day to propel us into action.
We can teach about MLK, Jr. and other civil rights leaders and activists’ acts of service to inspire our own. In addition to teaching and discussing civil rights, MLK, Jr., and other civil rights leaders and activists, we can find ways to create opportunities of actionable service for students – opportunities that help fulfill MLK, Jr.’s dream of a “beloved community.” Let’s take a look at some resources for MLK, Jr. Day and for teaching about civil rights.
“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.
MLK, Jr. Day Theme for 2023
This year’s theme, presented by The King Center, is “It Starts with Me: Cultivating a Beloved Community Mindset to Transform Unjust Systems.” The King Center states that:
Martin Luther King, Jr. described the “Beloved Community” as a society where “caring and compassion drive political policies that support the worldwide elimination of poverty and hunger and all forms of bigotry and violence. At its core, the ‘Beloved Community’ is an engine of reconciliation.”
MLK, Jr. and Civil Rights Resources
The King Center
On January 13, The King Center will host a “Beloved Community Teach-In,” and PK-12 lesson plans and educational materials are fully available once you register! They are also offering a virtual reading and puppet show of “The Little Bucket” on January 11 and a “Beloved Community Global Youth Summit” for ages 13-18 on January 12.
National Civil Rights Museum
As someone who grew up and spent most of my life in Memphis, TN, I am proud of this museum. It is an incredible place to visit and offers so much learning and insight. But if you can’t visit in person, the museum offers virtual resources for students and teachers, like:
- “Small But Mighty Storytime” videos
- An interactive “Standing Up by Sitting Down” activity
- A “Before the Boycott: Riding the Bus” e-learning experience
- “Resources for Exploring and Understanding Civil and Human Rights,” a 70-page presentation with literature, music, web, documentary, and film resources for PK-12
- Lesson plans and activities for grades 4-12
Exploring Primary Sources
Stanford University’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute offers a vast selection of primary sources that can be studied, including speeches, letters, and more. You can also find numerous speeches and sermons available on YouTube. Additionally, the Smithsonian offers photographs, posters, portraits, and other items to explore. The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library has letters and telegrams between the President and Martin Luther King, Jr., and DocsTeach through the National Archives has 92 documents for use in the classroom. It also has an interactive activity for upper elementary on “Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Fight for Civil Rights“.
Additional Lesson Plans, Activities, Literature, and Resources
- AmeriCorps offers a searchable database of volunteer and service opportunities by zip code
- The National Endowment for the Humanities
- National Parks Service
- Read Write Think
- Center for Civic Education
- 38 Inspiring Martin Luther King, Jr. Books for Kids of All Ages (WeAreTeachers)
- Digital Resources for MLK Day (TechNotes)
- Teaching and Celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (TechNotes)
- MLK JR Digital Breakout (TechNotes)
- The Martin Luther King, Jr. FlipHunt (TechNotes)