Martin Luther King

On 28 August 1963, Martin Luther King Jr delivered a speech to 250,000 supporters that is now known by millions around the world.

He told the public that he had a dream that America would one day live by its declaration that “all men are created equal”. He asked that people be judged not by the “colour of their skin, but by the content of their character”. He imagined a world where “the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood”.

His speech is still remembered for the enormous impact that it had on the civil rights movement in the US. But it was far from his only contribution. During his lifetime, King led countless protests against segregation in the US. He also campaigned fiercely against poverty and war in America.

He was assassinated in 1968, aged just 39. However, despite his short life, he helped to bring about major legal changes, including the end of segregation and tough measures to allow black people to vote.

Today (20 January) is Martin Luther King Jr Day, a national holiday in the US timed to coincide with his birthday.

What do you think he would have said about racism in the 21st Century?

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Assembly

Martin Luther King Jr changed America through the power of speech – this tailor-made assembly looks at why we celebrate Martin Luther King day and at his very particular genius in the use of language and oratory.

Activities

  1. Martin Luther King once said, “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people, but the silence over that by the good people.” What do you think he meant by that? Do you agree? Discuss as a class.
  2. Write a news story on the current state of race relations in the USA.
  3. Write your own version of Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech, on any issue you care strongly about.