On the third Monday of every January, the United States celebrates the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., the iconic Baptist minister and activist who became one of the most well-known leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. The first federal Martin Luther King Jr. holiday was celebrated in 1986, though President Ronald Reagan signed the law in November 1983. It took more than a decade for all fifty states to recognize it, in 2000.
- Hamilton Cast Readalong: "Martin & Anne: The Kindred Spirits of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Anne Frank" - Read by Daniel Yearwood (John Laurens/Philip Hamilton in Hamilton on Broadway). Written by Nancy Churnin, illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg.
- Hamilton Cast Readalong: "Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968" - Read by Sabrina Sloan (Angelica Schuyler in the North American Tour of Hamilton). Written by Alice Faye Duncan and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie.
- Inside the Vault: The March on Washington - Jermain Corbin, a history educator from South Boston, and Bryson Bruce from the cast of Hamilton joined us for the June 3, 2021, Inside the Vault as we examined materials related to the organization of the March on Washington as well as the subsequent press coverage.
- The March on Washington: A Virtual Tour by Clayborne Carson
Primary Source Documents
Gilder Lehrman curators explain and explore documents in the Gilder Lehrman Collection.
- Medical Committee for Civil Right’s Pamphlet on the March on Washington
- Robert Kennedy on civil rights, 1963
- Civil rights posters, 1968
- “Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech”: Students will read, analyze, and gain a clear understanding of “I Have a Dream,” a speech delivered by Martin Luther King Jr. at the March on Washington on August 28, 1963.
- “The Civil Rights Movement: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X”: Students will compare and contrast the different philosophies and methods espoused by the civil rights leaders Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.
History U Courses
History U offers free, self-paced courses in American history to high school students led by the nation’s top historians. Courses most relevant to studying Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights era are
- Black Women's History, taught by Wellesley College professor Kellie Carter Jackson
- The History of American Protest, taught by Harvard University professor John Stauffer
- Race and Rights in America, taught by Washington and Lee University professor Lucas Morel
Many essays pertaining to Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement have been published on the Gilder Lehrman Institute website and in History Now, the online journal of the Gilder Lehrman Institute.
- “A Place in History: Historical Perspective on Martin Luther King Jr. Day” by James Oliver Horton, History Now 4: American National Holidays (Summer 2005)
- “Different Perspectives on the Civil Rights Movement” by Anthony J. Badger, History Now 8: The Civil Rights Movement (Summer 2006)
- “The Civil Rights Movement: Major Events and Legacies” by James T. Patterson, History Now 8: The Civil Rights Movement (Summer 2006)
- “African American Religious Leadership and the Civil Rights Movement” by Clarence Taylor, History Now 8: The Civil Rights Movement (Summer 2006)
- “The Passage of the Civil Rights Act” by Clay Risen, History Now 41: The Civil Rights Act of 1964: Legislating Equality (Winter 2015)
- “Teaching the Civil Rights Act of 1964“ by Charles L. Zelden, History Now 41: The Civil Rights Act of 1964: Legislating Equality (Winter 2015)