Four Life Lessons from the Civil Rights Movement (page 2)

Four Life Lessons from the Civil Rights Movement

Related Articles

Related Topics

based on 27 ratings
Updated on Dec 22, 2009

Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Now, I say to you today my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.”

The story: The most prominent civil rights activist of the 20th century, MLK is remembered for his passionate rhetoric and uncompromising belief in a future in which, as he said, his “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.” To believe this in the wake of Jim Crow laws and a nation violently polarized over the issue of racial equality must have been difficult enough, but King acted upon that dream by speaking out—and sadly, he paid the ultimate price for it when he was assassinated in 1968.

The lesson: Especially in times like these, optimism like MLK’s can be difficult. Children are often acutely aware of the pressures of today’s world, both in their own lives and in the lives of their adult role models. Small but significant changes in their day can help them with a more positive outlook on life. Start with their bodies: kids are naturally more cheerful when they are well rested and exercise on a regular basis. Other tricks for increasing positive vibes are listening to upbeat music, keeping a list of encouraging motivational quotes handy (consider using sticky notes and posting them in conspicuous places), and avoiding the company of negative people. Help them to take a personal happiness inventory of the good things in their lives—the old adage “count your blessings” still has merit.

Septima Poinsette Clark: “The greatest evil in our country today is not racism, but ignorance.”

The story: Clark, regarded now as one of the mothers of the Civil Rights Movement, was fired from her teaching job in 1956 after some thirty years in education because she refused to quit the NAACP. She became a full-time activist for civil rights and her “citizenship schools” changed the face of the movement. In the 1960s, Clark’s educational campaign in the Deep South not only assisted with black voter registration but trained teachers and educated Southern blacks in life skills and literacy. To Clark, education was a form of empowerment. Her citizenship school program grew, and African-Americans once disenfranchised from civic life by racial barriers found their collective voice.

The lesson:Septima Poinsette Clark, who held a bachelor’s, a master’s and an honorary Ph.D., saw education as a bridge to a more just and equitable world. Help your kid take advantage of educational opportunities available to them. Elective courses and community education via the public library or local college are one way to do this. But even small things, like simply encouraging your child to read on a daily basis—and modeling this practice yourself—can set the bar for lifelong learning in your home. To give the gift of education to others, younger kids might hold a book drive; older children can volunteer to read to younger kids or participate as tutors in multigenerational adult literacy programs.

Celebrating the accomplishments of African-Americans merely by reading about them does a great disservice to the legacy of those blacks who acted upon the power of their convictions, even when it cost them dearly. Help your children put words into action and turn this Black History Month into more than just another history lesson.

View Full Article
Add your own comment
DIY Worksheets
Make puzzles and printables that are educational, personal, and fun!
Matching Lists
Quickly create fun match-up worksheets using your own words.
Word Searches
Use your own word lists to create and print custom word searches.
Crossword Puzzles
Make custom crossword puzzles using your own words and clues.
See all Worksheet Generators