Memorial Students Learn to Celebrate Life of MLK

Sixth graders in Mrs. Hamilton's class spent much of their day Tuesday learning about the life and accomplishments of the civil rights leader.


"Charisma." "Perserverance." "Leadership."

One by one, students in Mrs. Hamilton's sixth grade class at describe the qualities of Martin Luther King Jr. during a lesson Tuesday to honor the legacy and recent birthday of the civil rights leader.

"He had courage to talk in front of the crowds and he wouldn't give up," one of the students says.

After students recite lines from King's "I Have A Dream" speech, an overhead screen plays a Youtube video of photographs taken during the March on Washington in 1963 and students are asked how they think members of the crowd gathered for the historical event felt.

"Hope, probably because maybe before they had thought 'I will always live a life of slavery and segregation,'" sixth grader Ivy Linden-Dionne responds..

Earlier in the day students learned about Ruby Bridges, the first African-American child to attend an all-white elementary school in the South.

"Martin Luther King Jr. day is celebrated but not just for his life, but also all the different contributions that were made by all the people on this path of the civil rights movement," Hamilton says.

During the afternoon lesson students gather in a circle, hold hands and sing songs known as "negro spirituals". 

"I'd rather be dead than be a slave. That's what they're saying," sixth grader Sarah Locascio says when asked what she thinks the song's meaning is.

Andrew Treat recalls learning about the civil rights movement as a first grader.

"When I lived in Salisbury my first grade teacher, she actually went to the [March on Washington]," he says.

Students in a nearby classroom watched similar videos and participated in a play about King, according to fifth grade teacher Chris Napoletano.

Before their lesson is over, Mrs. Hamilton's students are given a homework assignment. They're asked to "modernize" King's famous speech by including changes they'd like to see made in the world.

"We've said, this process of people being treated equally in this country is not fully there. We still have prejucides of different sorts. There still are people that are marginalized that don't have the same opportunities as other people," Hamilton says. "We've come a long way with the civil rights movement in this country but there's still a way to go."


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