Monday, January 3, 2011

Martin Luther King, Jr.

The entry below was originally posted in March 2010, but I thought it might interest some folks now since Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday will be celebrated January 17th. 

We did read along (silently) with the audio, and it was wonderful.  MLK was a mesmerizing speaker!  I highly recommend studying this speech .  There's so much more depth to it than the few phrases you hear on the radio now and then.

We're studying American history this year, and finished up the Civil War last week. Inspired by a fifth grade teacher, I borrowed all 5 discs of Ken Burns' PBS series from the library. Joseph, Marianna, and I spent weeks (the series is over eleven hours long!) watching, listening, and learning. With pauses for discussion and review, we all absorbed a lot of information.

Anyway, when we finished the dvds, we covered the era of Reconstruction. Then instead of moving on chronologically, we jumped ahead to the Civil Rights era and Martin Luther King, Jr. The Civil War and Reconstruction should have given all races equality in America, but that's not how it turned out. One hundred years later, the fight was active again.

Our library has an audiotape of MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech. It's stirring and poetic and inspiring, and I can't wait to listen to it again.

In preparation, the three of us are reading a biography of MLK. I'm not patient enough to read it aloud (it's too long, and I want to keep moving), so we're sharing the book for our quiet time (the homeschoolers have a minimum of 30 minutes of approved/school topic reading each day).

Together, we're reading another book (Becca, too): I Have a Dream by Scholastic Press. It contains the entire text of the speech, along with paintings by 15 different artists. I highly recommend this book! We covered the first half today, analyzing and explaining
  • the meaning (the promissory note and the bank of justice),
  • the poetry (Why does he repeat "one hundred years later" four times in one long sentence?),
  • the context (explaining his urging of nonviolence with the picture of ketchup being poured on people sitting-in at a lunch counter),
  • the Biblical references ("I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places shall be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together."),
  • and the symbolism (Why does he begin with "Fivescore years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation."?)
We'll finish up tomorrow and then Friday listen to the speech while reading along (as I remember it, the tape is scratchy). Reading and analyzing is educational, but actually hearing that preacher proclaiming will touch our hearts.

I know lots of folks study MLK in January, around his birthday, but his life and efforts will make more sense to my students right now, when the Civil War and its aftermath are still fresh in their minds.

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