When you think something is unfair, how do you typically react? Does your behavior usually work? If so, why do you think it's effective? If not, what do you think might work better?
According to the article, Henry David Thoreau was very angry when he was released from jail. Do you think this was because the woman paid his taxes or because the jailer waited until morning to release him? Why?
A famous line in Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience" is, "That government is best which governs least." Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?
Why do you think so many people, including Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi, were so influenced by Thoreau's ideas about non-violent protest? In what way, if any, have Thoreau's ideas inspired you?
- As a class, discuss what it means to be inspired. Encourage students to identify what inspires them. Guide students to recognize that inspiration comes from many different sources. Often, people are inspired by their families and friends. Or, they find inspiration in nature and their surroundings. And sometimes, someone comes along with a new idea so powerful that it can influence the way huge parts of society think.
- Point out that many people today are inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr. But he, too, was inspired by others. According to the article, one of his greatest inspirations was "Civil Disobedience," an essay written by Henry David Thoreau nearly 200 years ago.
- Instruct students to conduct research to find a famous speech or text that inspires them. If you wish, encourage students to begin their search with the speeches of MLK.
- Once students have selected a speech or text, instruct them to write a brief review of it. Challenge them to identify what they think the person was trying to say and how and why that message inspires them.
CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:
Under the leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr., nonviolent protest became the defining feature of the modern civil rights movement in America. Explore this National Portrait Gallery exhibition to trace the trajectory of King’s career.
In this teacher-created lesson from the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, students use the design process to identify civil issues at their school (rights, responsibilities) and to propose solutions to those problems.
In this lesson from the National Museum of American History, students look at pages from a 1960’s comic book about the civil rights movement and make a list of the “do’s” and “don’ts” of nonviolence in a handy “pocket card.”
Use this lesson from the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum to guide students as they use the design process to develop a plan for civil solutions that might have averted the Revolutionary War.
Use this collection from the Smithsonian Learning Lab to guide students as they explore the theme of civil disobedience. Items include texts from Sophocles, Shelley and Thoreau along with a variety of images.
Use the items in this collection of resources from the Smithsonian Learning Lab highlights to teach students about the key events in the life and work of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.