MLK Day: Remember the Children’s March

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

― Martin Luther King Jr., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches

In preparation for the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, I showed my class the The Children’s March, Mighty TimesThis powerful movie was provided for free from Teaching Tolerance.

“The Children’s March” tells the story of how the young people of Birmingham, Alabama, braved fire hoses and police dogs in 1963 and brought segregation to its knees. Their heroism complements discussions about the ability of today’s young people to be catalysts for positive social change.

This movie is so powerful and demonstrates the strength of children to bring about social change. Dr. King was not present or leading the march, but stayed in a hotel room afraid that the actions would lead to violence and children would be hurt.

The police are the ones that started violent action. They used dogs and fire hoses for water boarding. The police are the ones that brought violence to this display of civil disobedience.  My students reacted with, “Thank goodness they don’t do that today.”  I had to inform that the police now use tear gas and rubber bullets when they feel that peaceful demonstrations are now disturbing the peace.

To see children as young as nine-years-old being arrested I can’t help but think of my eight-year-old son.  The endless supply of children marching out of the 16th Street Baptist Church, how their parents must have felt both afraid and proud of their children.   The power of children. Their energy. Their exuberance. Their joy.

How do we teach our children about Dr. King?  How do we teach are children about Civil Rights?

The teaching guide for The Children’s March asks:

On May 2, 1963, in Birmingham, Ala., about 1,000 students went to jail. By May 10th, 3,000 were in jail.

What spurred thousands of children to action? What gave them the power to rebel and resist? How is it that children of all ages were the ones to garner the largest victory seen thus far in the civil rights movement? How did the power of love form their strategies and their actions? And how can educators today invite students to experience anew the legacy of the children of Birmingham?

How can we inspire today’s children to action? From the environment to equity both in our country and abroad, the world is not the world Dr. King dreamed of fifty years ago.

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