For Educators: Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday



The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) led the charge for the passage of a federal observation of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, January 15, honoring his contribution to the United States. For 15 years the CBC advocated, debated, and sponsored legislation for the holiday and achieved passage of the bill in 1983. Using primary and secondary sources, students will learn about CBC’s determination with the support of grassroots organizations to establish a national holiday honoring the legacy of Dr. King in the civil rights movement for all Americans.

Grade Level: 5-12

Essential Questions:

What significant role do grassroots organizations play in effecting legislative policies?

Why is it important that legislative organizations like the Congressional Black Caucus exist in Congress?

Learning Objectives
The students will increase their knowledge of and appreciation of the legacy of Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement.
The students will respond to questions that require them to carefully study primary and secondary sources to understand the national impact of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Holiday.
The students will understand and appreciate the legislative work of members of the Congressional Black Caucus and the continuous challenges they face in Congress.
National Learning Standards

National U.S. History Standards

Era 9: Postwar United States (1945 to early 1970s)

Standard 4: Domestic policies after World War II

Standard 4: The struggle for racial and gender equality and the extension of civil liberties.

Era 10: Contemporary United States (1968 to the present)

Standard 2: Economic, social, and cultural development in contemporary United States.

National Standards for Civics and Government
Content Standards

5. What are the roles of citizens in American democracy?
• How can citizens take part in civic life?

National Standards for Language Arts
NL.Eng.K-12.1: Reading for Perspective
Students read a wide range of print and non-print texts to build understanding of texts, themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world and to acquire new information.

National Standard for Music Education
Content Standards

6. Listening to, analyzing, and describing music

9. Understanding music in relation to history and culture


Select an activity below to view full activity guidelines:

Documents, Resources and Worksheets Used in the Martin Luther King Holiday Bill

Activity 1: A National Hero: Martin Luther King, Jr.

Book for recommended student reading assignment: DK Biography: Martin Luther King, Jr.

Online Video
Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Mini Bio
A & E Networks Digital, Biography Channel, January 2010 (5 minutes)

Activity 2: Debates in Congress: Fifteen-Year Struggle for a National Holiday to Honor Dr. King.

Activity 3: Citizens' role in the legislative process

Activity 4: An Anthem for the Movement: Happy Birthday by Stevie Wonder

additional information and links.