History KS3: Dr Martin Luther King - American Civil Rights leader

Sanjeev Bhaskar explores how Dr Martin Luther King Jr had a dream of an equal America, free from racial discrimination.

Martin Luther King Junior was born on 15 Jan 1929, the son of a Baptist preacher, when segregation was in place in the Southern States of America.

When in 1955 Rosa Parks was arrested after refusing to give up her seat for a white passenger, the local black community chose to boycott the bus service. And they asked King to lead the campaign.

His speech spurned people on to fight segregation but caught the attention of more sinister forces – Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s family received threatening calls and their house was bombed.

Despite the violence he was threatened with, he believed in non-violent resistance and refused to react with hate.

He organised a march to highlight the need for a Civil Rights Act, to end segregation, and some 250,000 people attended. Here he spoke his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech which called for racial harmony.

In 1964, he got what he was campaigning for - The Civil Rights Act ended segregation in public places, banned employment discrimination and the voting act that followed allowed Black people to exercise their legal right to vote.

On the 4th of April 1968 Martin Luther King was in Memphis. As he stood on his hotel room balcony he was shot with a bullet from a rifle of a white assassin.

This short film is from the BBC series, Icons.

*PLEASE NOTE: This short film contains scenes which some people may find upsetting. Teacher review is recommended prior to use in class.**

Teacher Notes

Key Stage 3 - History

This short film could be used to discuss:

  • Key American figures of the 20th century
  • The Civil Rights Movement
  • The history of activism
  • Social history of America in the 1960s
  • Race relations in 20th century America
  • The Montgomery Bus Boycott
  • Dr Martin Luther King's 'I have a dream' speech
  • The Civil Rights Act
  • Assassinations in America

Curriculum Notes

This short film is suitable for teaching history at KS3 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and Third and Fourth Level in Scotland.

More from Icons:

Neil Armstrong - First person on the Moon
Marie Curie - The person who discovered radium and polonium
Nelson Mandela - Freedom fighter and South Africa's first black president
Helen Keller - The writer who proved her disability was not debilitating