“Making Hope and History Rhyme: Words That Will Echo Forevermore” (4 of 4)

Following the firstsecond and third of four blogs in this series, I introduced our 4th/5th grade expedition, “Making Hope and History Rhyme: Words That Will Echo Forevermore,” which we hope you will read to gain a comprehensive view of the expedition unit.

Case Study #4: Martin’s Big Words

Throughout the year, we made connections to Dr. Martin Luther King’s many different messages. While studying the Revolution, we read how he connected the Civil Rights Movement to the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride, as he said, “we still need some Paul Revere of conscience to alert every hamlet and every village of America that revolution is still at hand.” On the Declaration, Dr. King exclaimed:

“Our nation signed a huge promissory note, ‘we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ Oh, what a marvelous creed. Just think about what it says. It didn't say some men; it said all men. It didn’t say white men; it said all men, which includes Black men. It didn’t say all Gentiles; it said all men, which includes Jews. It didn’t say all Protestants, it said all men, which includes Catholics…  And then it said something else. That every man has certain basic rights that are neither derived from nor conferred by the state… They are God given.” How can we not reference these passages when learning about April 18th, 1775 and later, the signing of the Declaration of Independence? 

As discussed in the first blog post, we compared Dr. King’s messages to the themes of Phillis Wheatley’s poems, that “Black is beautiful,” and a good education requires intelligence plus character. While reading Frederick Douglass’ story, we read and watched Dr. King’s speech, “What is in your Life’s Blueprint?” Douglass’ ambition and unwavering commitment to the Abolitionist cause embodies what Dr. King outlines in this speech: “a deep belief in your own dignity,” “a determination to achieve excellence,” and “a commitment to the eternal principles of beauty, love, and justice.” Similar to the speeches of Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass, Dr. King’s mastery of oration lies in his poetic style. So, in addition to analyzing the message of the speech, a major focus was dissecting its elements of poetry. 

 As discussed in the third blog post, we compared Dr. King’s message to Langston Hughes’ poetry on freedom and the promise of America. Both Hughes and Dr. King demand that we cannot wait. Freedom must be demanded. Dr. King reveals to us a fierce commitment to love, selflessness, justice, pacifism, and an urgent need to speak and act on what is right. 

When it came time for our Dr. King unit, we worked fluidly because the children had a firm grasp on key concepts from prior knowledge. Now we needed to make the ideas more concrete and intentionally connect the themes. Similar to earlier case studies, we began with a gallery walk which contained excerpts of speeches, pictures and videos of Dr. King in action.