01/19/2021 / Education

Shaping History

As 2021 dawned , the hope of a new beginning was on the horizon. January historically is the month of renewal, resolutions, and an observation of a great man who fought for equality for all people with the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. More than ever, it is so important to help students understand the importance of people who helped to shape history in positive ways. Early in elementary school students hear about Martin Luther King, Jr.'s  famous I Have A Dream speech. They've heard the story of the brave little girl Ruby Bridges and the courageous Rosa Parks. However, it is important to revisit these history shapers as students get older, taking a deeper dive into their stories and truly understanding their contributions to civil rights.  
Revisiting Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream speech brings forth another great moment in American history.  In August of 1963, Dr. King gave his speech near the Lincoln Memorial speaking of the hope African American's felt when Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation 100 years earlier. The Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in the Southern states. King was bringing attention to how dire the situation was during the Civil War, and how things really haven't changed in the span of 100 years. His message was one of non-violence and peaceful protesting for civil rights.

Dr. King's dream lives on in his famous quote, "I have a dream that my 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". His speech was part of the March on Washington, a gathering of more than 250,000 people in the nation's capital for African American's rights. This speech catapulted Dr. King's message and it made Congress expedite the passing of the Civil Right's Act. The deeper dive into Dr. King's speech helps to teach students the impact of words and peacefully speaking up for civil rights. 

The story of Ruby Bridges is one of courage in the civil rights movement. In 1960,  at six years old this brave little girl helped to desegregate William Frantz Elementary School. Ruby shaped history as she was the first African American student to integrate an elementary school located in the south. This heroic act changed the course of history helping to end racial segregation in public schools. The lessons Ruby taught included respect for one another and tolerance- how appropriate for our current state of events. 

Rosa Parks is a courageous woman who shaped history refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery bus in 1955. She was arrested for violating an Alabama ordinance that stated that an African American would have to give up their seat to a white passenger. This started the Montgomery Bus Boycott which was a plan that African Americans would refuse to use the bus system until  the company changed it's segregation policy. In 1956 the Supreme Court declared the segregation on the bus system was unconstitutional. Rosa Parks is known in history as "the mother of the civil rights movement" and the history she helped to shape is well worth a deeper dive. 

There are many resources, books and videos that can help students further explore these civil rights heroes. 

Subscribe to Kathleen's Newsletter

Get the latest posts delivered right to your inbox

Kathleen Palmieri

Kathleen Palmieri is a National Board Certified Teacher, a National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Learning Facilitator, and a fifth grade educator in upstate New York. She reviews professional texts and writes education articles for Middleweb. As a writer with a passion for pedagogy, Kathleen's focus is on education practices and strategies, as well as her own experiences as an educator. She has presented at math conferences, writing workshops, actively collaborates in literacy projects, and networks globally. 
KathleenPalmieri.com