5 ways to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington

Posted by Mary Hendra on August 24, 2013

Wednesday marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, at which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. Here are a few resources and teaching strategies to help you or your students critically examine this history using multimedia, text, and primary source documents.

  1. Download: Eyes on the Prize Study Guide. Facing History’s Eyes on the Prize Study Guide provides resources, primary source documents, and guiding questions to accompany the award-winning PBS American Experience documentary, Eyes on the Prize. Exploring the history of the civil rights era from 1963 to 1980, the guide is free to download. Download chapter “No Easy Walk (1961-1963)” for a look at the March on Washington.
  2. Watch It: Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin. This award-winning documentary explores the life and work of key civil rights leader Bayard Rustin, a longtime advisor to Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1963, civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph tapped Rustin to organize the historic March on Washington, which was the largest protest America had ever seen at the time. As it explores the roots of Rustin’s commitment to nonviolence, the film puts the March on Washington in historic context, helping students understand the circumstances of the time and the hard choices individuals made leading up to the march.
  3. View: Congressman John Lewis on the Civil Rights Movement. Firsthand accounts from individuals can help us more deeply appreciate and empathize with the human and inhuman dimensions of important moments in history. Watch this clip of Congressman John Lewis, the last living speaker from the March of Washington, discussing the civil rights movement and the importance of remembering and learning from our past in order to build a better future.
  4. Teaching Strategy: “Save the Last Word For Me”. The “Save the Last Word for Me” teaching strategy engages the whole classroom in a close examination of a text. Hand out copies of King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” and three index cards to each student. Ask students to read the speech on their own, highlight three sentences that stand out, and then write one sentence on the front of each index card. On the back of their index cards, students should write about why they chose that quote – what it reminded them of, what in history or today they connected it to, or what it meant to them. Students then divide into small groups of three and read their quotations. For full strategy, click here.
  5. Sneak Peek: A Time to Break Silence: The Essential Works of Martin Luther King, Jr., for Students. This fall, Facing History will host a free webinar featuring the upcoming book A Time to Break Silence, the first collection of King’s essential writings for high school students and young people. The collection features important readings and writings – selected by teachers across a variety of disciplines. Learn more about the book, slated for release in November, and stay tuned to Facing History’s Online Learning page for news about the webinar and a link to register.

Additional resources can be found through the Civil Rights Movement Veterans website and The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute.

Why do you think this event has remained a critical event in our nation’s collective memory? How do you plan to teach about this moment in history in your classroom?

Topics: Civil Rights Movement, A View from the Classroom

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