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Meet Martin Luther King, Jr.
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Meet Martin Luther King, Jr.

Written by James T. de KayAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by James T. de Kay
| Random House Books for Young Readers | Trade Paperback | January 2001 | $4.99 | 978-0-375-80395-6 (0-375-80395-5)
Also available as an eBook.
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About Landmark Biographies
Teachers know that biographies are great learning tools. Teachers also know that many students, when presented with a biography, often discount them out of hand. So, how can teachers get this important material into the hands (and brains) of their students?
The answer is easy: Landmark Books. Since 1950, Landmark has offered young readers biographies that are ell-written, informative, and fun. Interesting details and anecdotes help students to identify with each historical figure as a real person—one who encounters challenges, celebrates accomplishments, and endures hardships. By reading books in the Landmark series, students will not only deepen their understanding for and appreciation of history, but may very well develop a new love for biographies.

Using Landmark Biographies in the Classroom
• Build biography into every unit of the curriculum. For example, if students are learning about time, have them read about Albert Einstein. If students are studying Black history, have them read about Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King, Jr.
• Start a biography-of-the-month book club. Each month, students can choose a biography to read and report on. At the end of the year, bind each student’s reports into a book.
• Have a “living history” day where students come to school dressed like a person they have read about. Each student will have a chance to “address” the class in character.


In Meet Martin Luther King, Jr., the life of the great civil rights leader is profiled, beginning with his birth and formative years in Atlanta, Georgia, through the tumultuous 1960s. Young readers will be inspired by the strength, courage, and
determination of a man who dreamt of a better world for all people.

The following books are also in this guide:
Meet Christopher Columbus
Meet George Washington

Meet Abraham Lincoln
Meet Thomas Jefferson


In the Classroom

These easy-to-read biographies of three of America’s greatest heroes serve as brief introductions to the lives of these complex men.

The themes of leadership, courage, bravery, heroism, and freedom connect the work of these men and guide young students to a better understanding of the battle for freedom throughout our nation’s history.

In addition to discussion questions related to themes, this guide offers suggestions for activities that link the language arts, social studies, art, and music curriculum.

Pre-Reading Activity

Brainstorm the meaning of freedom with the class. Then ask students to write a paragraph about what freedom means to them. Encourage students to share their writing orally with the class.

Thematic Connections

George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, Jr. were all outstanding leaders in American history. Ask students to discuss the qualities of a leader. Then ask them to cite events in the lives of each of these Americans that indicate their leadership qualities. Discuss at what age these men demonstrated their leadership abilities. Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t plan to become a minister. Why did he feel that he could better help people if he became a minister?

Ask students to define courage. Washington, Lincoln, and King each faced defeat in their lifetime, but they never gave up. Discuss the courage it took for each man to continue his dream. Based on the information in these biographies, which man do you think fought the most courageous battle? How did it take courage for Martin Luther King, Jr. to fight his battle peacefully?

Discuss the meaning of bravery. How does bravery relate to courage? How does it take bravery to be a leader? Divide the class into three groups and assign each group one of these famous Americans to discuss. Ask them to talk about the many ways each of these men showed bravery. How is their bravery celebrated today?

Discuss the qualities of a hero. It is said that George Washington was a hero to Abraham Lincoln. How might both of these men have been heroes to Martin Luther King, Jr.? Discuss why Mohandas Gandhi of India was a hero to Martin Luther King, Jr. How is each of these men a hero to all Americans?

Washington, Lincoln, and King each fought for freedom. Compare and contrast the type of freedom for which each man stood. Ask each student to take a look at the paragraph they wrote about freedom in the pre-reading activity. What might Washington, Lincoln, and King say about their interpretation of freedom?

Interdisciplinary Connections

Language Arts
Read aloud "The Gettysburg Address" by Abraham Lincoln. Analyze the meaning of Lincolnís words. Ask the class to discuss why it is considered the "one of most beautiful speeches ever made."

Review the meaning of metaphor. Martin Luther King, Jr. was called the "drum major for justice." (p. 104, Meet Martin Luther King, Jr.) Ask students to explain this metaphor and then have them write their own metaphors for Washington, Lincoln, and King.

Social Studies
Draw a map of the United States and label the 13 original colonies. When did these colonies become states? Then find out how many states existed during Lincoln’s presidency. Which states were considered a part of the confederacy?

Divide the class into three groups and assign each group Washington, Lincoln, or King to research. Ask each group to construct an illustrated timeline of the most important events in the life of the person assigned to them. Share the timeline in class.

Ask the class to plan a special celebration for Martin Luther King’s birthday in January and President’s Day in February. Encourage students to use poetry and songs to pay tribute to these men.

We Shall Overcome" is a famous freedom song that was sung during the civil rights movement. Locate the lyrics to this song and read them to the class. How might this song of freedom have been appropriate for Washington and Lincoln’s era? Students may also enjoy locating songs from the American Revolution and the Civil War.

Have the class draw or paint a mural called "Freedom." They should include tributes to Washington, Lincoln, and King in the mural.

Teaching ideas prepared by Pat Scales, Director of Library Media Services, the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities.


In this biography, the author writes that Martin Luther King, Jr. “fought with words and ideas.” (p. 1) Why did King use words and ideas, instead of fists and guns, to fight for civil rights?
How did King show courage throughout his life? How has his courage helped to make the world a better place?
What does it mean when the author described King as a “drum major for peace”? (p. 100)


Create a Civil Rights Hall of Fame. Direct students to research key historical figures from the civil rights movement, as well as other people who have fought in the struggle for racial equality. Students can then present their knowledge by giving speeches dressed in character, creating a poster highlighting key events and images from the person’s life, or organizing an awards ceremony to celebrate the life of their subject.
Share with students the text of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech from the 1963 March on Washington. (Text can be found at Ask students to share lines from the speech that they find most
meaningful, and discuss why King’s words were, and still are, so inspiring. Students can write “I Have a Dream” essays, describing their own personal dreams for a better world.
During the 1963 March on Washington, marchers sang the song “We Shall Overcome.” Working in collaboration with the school music teacher, begin a unit on freedom songs. You may want to refer to


Vocabulary/Use of Language

The vocabulary in these biographies isn’t difficult, but students should be encouraged to jot down unfamiliar words and use a dictionary to look up the definitions. Such words may include:

Meet George Washington colony (p.8), surveyor (p.15), and independence (p. 45).

Meet Abraham Lincoln politics (p. 33), representative (p. 46), territory (p. 49), surrendered (p.68), and debate (p. 50).

Meet Martin Luther King, Jr
. segregation (p. 15), unjust (p. 23), boycott (p. 38), and justice (p. 104).


Review for the Landmark Series
"One of the most critically acclaimed, best-selling childrenís book series ever published." The New York Times


The King Center
The King Center site contains print and interactive information on the lives of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King.

Education World
This Education World Web page offers more than 20 cross-curricular and cross-grade lessons for teaching about Dr. King.


Guide prepared by Colleen Carroll, Education Consultant, Curriculum
Writer, and Children’s Book Author, Sleepy Hollow, NY.
Random House Children’s Books • School and Library Marketing
1745 Broadway, 10-4, New York, NY 10019 • BN0606 • 12/06


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