Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s activism and his historic and moving speeches have inspired millions throughout the years. Besides being an exceptional orator, Dr. King was also instrumental in significant legislative changes in the United States, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Immigration and Nationality Services Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

Today, people of all ages, races, and backgrounds still celebrate Dr. King and invoke his name and spirit when they march in rallies for equality and other social issues. Author Glenn Geher, Ph.D. says in an article on King’s influence in today’s world that: “In his lifetime, Dr. King provided a model for effective social activism. He showed us how to call problems out and how to organize to bring about positive change.”

Let’s learn more about this national hero.

Martin Luther King Jr. Timeline

1929

King was born on January 15 in Atlanta, GA.

1948

Graduates from Morehouse College, a historically African American college in Atlanta.

1951

Graduates from Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania.

1953

Marries Coretta Scott.

1955

Receives a Ph.D. from Boston University. The bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama begins.

1956

Montgomery bus system ends segregation.

1957

King is named president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which focuses on advancing the rights of African Americans.

1958

King’s first book is published, “Stride Toward Freedom.”

1963

King delivers his “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington at the Lincoln Memorial.

1964

King is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

1968

King is assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.

1986

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is celebrated for the first time in the U.S.

2011

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial opens in Washington, D.C.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Facts

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. was born January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia. His birth name was Michael, but he was later renamed Martin.
  • He studied theology and received his Ph.D. in 1955 from Boston University.
  • The holiday celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. was first observed in 1986. It is celebrated on the third Monday in January. For the first time in the year 2000, it was celebrated in all 50 states.
  • In the U.S., there are approximately 900 streets named after Martin Luther King, Jr. in 39 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico. Eleven cities have freeways named after him.
  • Outside the U.S., Brazil, Israel, and Senegal have streets named after him.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. gave over 2,500 speeches during his lifetime and wrote 5 books.
  • King was jailed nearly 30 times for acts of civil disobedience and on false charges.
  • King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.
  • He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 at the age of 35.
  • He was assassinated April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee.
  • In 2011, The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial opened in Washington, D.C.

The Civil Rights Movement

The Civil Rights Movement took place in the U.S. from 1954-1968. Because African Americans didn’t have the same rights as white citizens, the goal was to gain equality by ending segregation and discrimination. Civil rights activists fought and protested for equal opportunities in education, employment, housing, and the right to vote.

MLK’s Role In The Civil Rights Movement

Martin Luther King, Jr’s involvement in the Civil Rights Movement began in 1955 with the Montgomery bus boycott in Alabama. On what would be a catalyst moment, Rosa Parks, a black woman, refused to give up her seat for a white passenger while on a city bus. This event prompted the head of the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to reach out to King to help lead the boycott of the bus system. The boycott lasted over a year, but finally, in December of 1956, after legal action against the city ordinance, Montgomery desegregated their bus system.

“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.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the years that followed, King continued to peacefully deliver thousands of speeches and lectures, organize events, and urge the public to use nonviolent methods when protesting. Activists took part in boycotts, marches, and sit-ins, a form of protest in which African Americans would sit in all-white areas at lunch counters and other facilities to protest racial segregation.

During this time period, King and thousands of other activists were attacked and subjected to harassment, violence, and intimidation. But they persisted, despite the hate and ignorance they were met with.

Dr. King’s Famous “I Have a Dream” Speech

A momentous event took place in August of 1963 when King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in front of over 200,000 Americans of all races at the Lincoln Memorial. Even today, excerpts of his speech continue to move people all over the world. One of the most notable lines is: “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.”

Learning Activities for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

The following activities integrate multisensory learning and are arranged by grade level. This diverse learning method will help your homeschoolers better understand Martin Luther King, Jr.’s incredible influence on our society.

Elementary Martin Luther King, Jr. Activities

  • Do you have a small box, a few plastic eggs, or even a cup with a lid in the house? Collect the letters from an old Scrabble™ board, or make your own with small pieces of paper to spell out some of the following MLK, Jr. vocabulary words:  civil, rights, freedom, equality, protest, speech. Place the letters for each word, one word at a time, into your container. Have your student shake them up and pour them out and then unscramble them to spell out the vocabulary word.
  • Every picture tells a story. Browse pictures on the web of Dr. King’s life, and pick one or two that could be used as a story starter for your elementary-age homeschooler. They could write (or tell) about what they think happened during, or just after the picture was taken.

Middle School Martin Luther King, Jr. Activities

  • The “What If” game is a popular way to help students build problem-solving skills. To apply the “What If” game to your MLK, Jr. study, ask your homeschooler questions such as: “What if Martin Luther King, Jr. had not been a minister? Would that have changed how people received his message?”  Another example of a question might be: “What if Dr. King had been born in the northern U.S.? Would he have had the same passion about civil rights?”
  • Using some of the facts they’ve learned about Dr. King, have your middle schooler create an acrostic of the word FREEDOM. Each letter of the word would start a sentence that states a fact about the life and times of MLK, Jr.

High School Martin Luther King, Jr. Activities

  • Ask your student to conduct a historical analysis of the lasting impact of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s work. They can analyze how civil rights advocacy groups used nonviolent resistance techniques to achieve their goals, and the importance of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Time4Learning members can use Time4Learning’s American History II course to further explore the civil rights movement and other important turning points during this time.
  • Analogies are ways to compare two different things. Martin Luther King, Jr. uses many of them in his “I Have a Dream” speech. For example, he compares our civil rights to a check. Download a copy of the speech and have your high schooler see how many analogies he or she can discover in it.

Quick Martin Luther King, Jr. Spelling Words

Equality Justice
Fairness Movement
Harmony Perseverance
Hero Tolerance
Idealistic Unification

Martin Luther King, Jr. Learning Activities & Games for Children

When teaching about Martin Luther King, Jr., it’s always a great idea to include engaging games and activities that will help students retain the information. The following resources offer more interactive opportunities to learn about this leader and the history of the Civil Rights movement.

Today, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s family continues his legacy by taking part in various marches around the country and by keeping his voice alive. They are just another reminder of how impactful his work has been for so many people.