Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a civil rights activist, spiritual leader, and proponent of non-violent direct action during the Civil Rights Movement in America. He worked to improve the lives of African-Americans, fighting oppression with civil disobedience and advocating for equality through systemic change.
Dr. King protested racial discrimination in federal and state laws across the country, famously organizing boycotts, sit-ins, and marches including the historic 1963 March on Washington, where on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. In 1964, he won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work.
On April 4, 1968, Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee sparking riots and mourning across the nation. Each year, on the third Monday in January, we honor the birth, memory, and history-altering work of Dr. King with a federal holiday marking the occasion.
Continue below to learn about Dr. King’s life and legacy, the history of the Civil Rights Movement, and for resources supporting social justice at home and in the classroom. On January 16th, tune in from 1-3PM for special programming in celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day during our Watch & Wonder block.
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Learn About Martin Luther King Jr.
Books for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
From “Freedom Summer” to “Through My Eyes,” celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with these children’s books that explore the life and legacy of the civil rights icon.
Martin Luther King Jr. | Civil Rights Leader Video
In the second half of the 20th century, racial tensions rose in the US as African Americans began to challenge unjust laws that supported discrimination and segregation. This movement found its leader in the patient and inspiring minister, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Watch this short video and engage in two primary source activities to explore how King’s deep-seated commitment to nonviolence contributed to the expansion of social justice in the United States, particularly for African Americans.
The Life and Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. | Civil Rights Movement
Historians reflect on the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his role in the Civil Rights Movement.
Dr. King’s Philosophy | The King Center
Learn about the fundamental tenets of Dr. King’s philosophy of nonviolence, as described in his first book, Stride Toward Freedom, and the Six Steps for Nonviolent Social Change you can enact based on his nonviolent campaigns and teachings.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign
Learn about Dr. Martin Luther King’s efforts to address systemic poverty and economic injustice in the late 1960s with the launch of his Poor People’s Campaign and his support for the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike, in these video excerpts from Roads to Memphis | AMERICAN EXPERIENCE.
Learn About the Civil Rights Movement
Achievements of the Civil Rights Movement
In this video from GPB, learn how following the 1963 March on Washington, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that ensured that the rights of all people were protected, regardless of one’s race, gender, color, or national origin.
Activism in the Civil Rights Movement
In this interactive lesson, students will learn about the historical background of racial segregation. They will also learn about a number of brave individuals and groups who stood up against segregation during the 1950s and 1960s. Students will use media, text, and images to analyze the following question: What do the stories of individuals like Ruby Bridges and Rosa Parks, the Freedom Riders, and activists suggest about the role of citizens in shaping democracy?
The 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington: Leadership at the March through Music and Speeches
While Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech became the most famous to come out of the March on Washington, he was by no means the only person to address the massive crowd assembled on the National Mall. Use this lesson plan to look at the other civil rights leaders and orators who spoke that day, and how effectively they conveyed their messages.
Civil Rights: Then and Now Collection
While students today may think of the Civil Rights Movement as part of the distant past, it’s clear that many of the problems that fueled that fight are still with us. This collection of videos, documents, and primary sources lends context to the events and leaders that defined the Civil Rights Movement’s first three decades (1954-1985). These resources also capture the issues and activists involved in the struggle today—those making headlines, stirring debate, and trending on social media.
Civil Rights: Demanding Equality | Democracy in America
Explore how our civil rights as Americans enforce protection against discrimination and exclusion, learn about the differences between the 1866 Civil Rights Act and 1964 Civil Rights Act, then review the history of affirmative action and answer questions about your opinion of the law, in this Democracy in America interactive activity from Annenberg Learner.
Social Justice & Allyship Resources
Honoring the Real Meaning of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
This month, we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. — a great figure of American and Black history. The story of Dr. King might feel complicated to discuss with our children. How can your family honor this hero and his life without glossing over the hard stuff?
Coming Together: The ABCs of Racial Literacy
This growing set of resources from Sesame Workshop’s Coming Together initiative provides tools, sparks conversations and supports kids as they grow into allies and advocates. Resources include content to specifically address anti-Black racism.
Talking to Young Children About Race and Racism
This collection from PBS KIDS for Parents includes a variety of videos, articles, reading lists, and activities to help you have meaningful conversations with young children about race, racism, and being anti-racist. Additional external resources for parents and older children are also included.
“I Have A Dream” Vision Board
Creating a vision board inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. is a great way to spark a conversation with your child about the positive impact that kind, helpful people can have in the lives of others!
Confronting Anti-Black Racism Collection
Use these materials with middle and high school students to help them understand the long history of anti-Black racism in the United States, and think about ways to address it in their own families and communities. Resources include news coverage of recent protests, videos on the origins of the Black Lives Matter movement and protests against police brutality within the past decade, iconic PBS documentaries on the histories of race and racism in America, and activities addressing civic engagement and elevating students’ voices.
Watch & Wonder Programming
Tune into the Mountain Lake PBS Watch & Wonder block for special Martin Luther King Jr. Day programs celebrating and commemorating the holiday.
Monday, January 16
1 PM: With Infinite Hope: MLK and the Civil Rights Movement
With Infinite Hope looks back at the life, leadership, and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The program follows King’s career from his hiring at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church and leadership of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, through his death on April 4th, 1968 in Memphis. The documentary includes interviews with people who participated in well-known events of the Civil Rights Movement: the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Freedom Rides, the Birmingham Children’s March, Selma, and the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike.
2 PM: New York State Celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: Paths to Change
Hosted by Reverend Dr. Mashona Walston, a pastor, chaplain, speaker, veterans advocate, and neurotheologian who serves as the Senior Minister at the First Church in Albany, this year’s program will take viewers on a virtual tour across New York State. Through the eyes of New Yorkers from Buffalo to Brooklyn, Rochester to New Paltz, the program focuses on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and dreams with music, art, and inspiring stories that reflect paths to change across New York State.