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Keeping Civility in Civil Rights: Carrying on MLK's Legacy

What do your kids know about Martin Luther King, Jr? Yes, he delivered the iconic “I have a dream” speech, but we can teach our kids so much more about this incredible American who became the most famous leader of the civil rights movement. This legacy is one involving faith, family, patriotism, honor, courage, respect, and perseverance . . . few embody these Primerrily values as he does. Here’s how Primerrily families are celebrating the national holiday that honors his life, legacy, successes, and dreams. More importantly, here’s how we are instilling these values into our kids (in part how we discuss race with our kids -- in the spirit of King’s colorblind America) to carry on and carry out his legacy.

Federal Holiday Background

The American leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr. began when he was the young pastor of a church in Montgomery, Alabama. A prominent local leader, he was asked to lead the city bus boycott after Rosa Parks -- the mother of the civil rights movement -- “stood up” by sitting down at the front of a bus in 1955. He led the March on Washington in 1963, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, and was tragically assassinated in 1968 (we recommend reading this moving statement from Heritage President Kay Coles James on the 50th anniversary of his assassination). Fifteen years later, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill into law to create a federal holiday honoring Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. on his birthday (January 15, 1929), to be celebrated nationally on the third Monday of every January. The bill also established a Commission to oversee the observance of the holiday. Coretta Scott King, King’s widow, was made a member of this commission for life in 1989 by President George H.W. Bush.

  • Explain to your kids why we have this day off from school and work, and why many take this day to remember the patriotic passion and dream of a great American. Support the conversation with these MLK books. Then ask about something unfair they have seen, or something they know to be wrong. Ask about ways they might try to right this wrong.

Legacy of Values

Martin Luther King, Jr. practiced what he preached by maintaining civility and respect throughout his fight for equal opportunity and equal treatment for all Americans. He truly put “civility” in the civil rights movement. His words, courage, and actions continue to inspire many to this day. In current times of tragic race relations and violence, we pray that his prayers and dreams for our country continue to touch more hearts and minds. King is also known for his philosophy of nonviolence, even when confronted with violence. His commitment to nonviolent protest was distu