In Holidays, US History

Back to School & Celebrating Martin Luther King Day

It’s great to be back at school after a nice holiday break and see a lot of familiar faces along with many new ones too. As usual, student enrollment in January always picks up, so we have also welcomed a new teacher to help with the overflow and keep our classes at an optimum size for student learning.

We are definitely off to a good start for 2019! Looking around our school we really seem to have a wonderful diversity and vibrant energy in our classrooms. One of the best parts of teaching English to foreign students is learning about a variety of very distinct cultures all in one class.

Speaking of diversity, on January 21st we celebrated Martin Luther King Day. I was actually surprised at how many students had never heard of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. before. Maybe they had heard his name (there is a street named after him), but didn’t know about the civil rights movement and what role King played in the fight for racial equality in the US. This sparked a lot of questions about US history, slavery, and racism today.

It really made me realize, maybe for the 1st time, how important it is to keep Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s name alive by creating a national holiday in his honor. Posthumously, King is still leading the way for the civil rights movement in that people have to ask, “Why is this a holiday?”, “Why aren’t the banks open?”, “How come public schools are closed?”, “Who is Martin Luther King?”

Thinking about it, when I was young, I really didn’t know anything about Martin Luther King either. There wasn’t a day off school, so there was no need to ask questions about why and who and what. They didn’t teach that part of history in my school.

Actually, it wasn’t until the 1990’s that MLK Day was celebrated all over the country despite being declared a national holiday in the early 1980’s. Even then, it had taken a long time to be recognized. It was first proposed to be a national holiday just four days after his assassination on April 4th, 1968. That’s over twenty years!

Well, it is a highly-deserved honor for a man that was not scared to stand up and risk his life to fight for equality and justice.

For MLK Day, we listened to some songs dedicated to Martin Luther King and other American civil rights leaders including President Abraham Lincoln. Some students also chose a movie to watch from the top 15 list of best movies related to civil rights and inequality in the US and wrote a report for extra credit.

Remember, listening to music and watching movies are both excellent ways to improve your English. In this case, you get to learn some US history as an added bonus. Go check them out!

Great for Listening

If you have never seen one of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speeches, then check out his “I Have a Dream” speech.
For some real soulful music, listen to Nina Simone: ‘Why (The King Of Love Is Dead)‘ (1968).
For great clear lyrics, listen to Marvin Gaye’s ‘Abraham, Martin and John’.
Stevie Wonder’s ‘Happy Birthday’ was written to honor MLK’s birthday.
Pride (In the Name of Love)’ by U2 was written after being inspired by a biography of MLK.
For hip-hop lovers, listen to ‘By The Time I Get to Arizona’ by Public Enemy.

14 Great Movies to Watch for Martin Luther King Day

February is Black History Month

January is well known for MLK day and on its heels is February and Black History Month. It has become nationally recognized as a time to research, recognize and promote the often-forgotten achievements of black Americans and peoples of African descent.

The history of Black History Month originated in 1915, 50 years after the abolishment of slavery in the US with the Thirteenth Amendment.

In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month and encouraged the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

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