After watching the video, review important facts about Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, Jr.: What injustice did each man fight? How did both men fight to overcome injustice in their countries? What are significant events in both men's lives? How do their actions continue to inspire people today? To discuss this last question, ask students to explain and support the following statements from the video:
Next, tell the class that both men spread their message through letters and speeches throughout their lifetimes. For example, students are probably familiar with King's "I Have a Dream" speech, delivered at a march in Washington, D.C. in 1963. Explain that earlier that year, King had been arrested after demonstrating in defiance of a court order. While in jail, he wrote "Letter From a Birmingham Jail." This letter was widely circulated and became an important document in the civil rights movement.
Remind students that, like King, Mandela was also imprisoned for his beliefs — although his imprisonment lasted more than two decades (1964-1990). Mandela was originally sentenced to five years imprisonment, but while serving that sentence, he was also convicted of sabotage and sentenced to life imprisonment. Mandela's statements during the second trial, called the Rivonia Trial, became famous in the fight against apartheid.
Tell students that they will be comparing one of Mandela's important writings or speeches with one of King's. They may choose to compare King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail" or "I Have a Dream Speech" with Mandela's "Statement from the Rivonia Trial," or they may wish to compare their acceptance speeches for the Nobel Peace Prize. Profiles for both men are also included below if needed:
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Once you and students have selected the two documents or speeches to compare, have students read them on their own a few times, highlighting important passages and noting any questions. If necessary, take some class time to answer students' questions.
Ask students to write a brief summary of both documents, and then compare the two. How are they alike? How are they different? For example: What is the purpose or "call to action" in each document? What is each man's vision for the future? How did each man discuss violence?
After students have written their comparisons, have a class discussion about the contributions of these two leaders. Were these two men effective civil rights proponents? If so, what qualities or actions made them effective? If not, why? How might history have been different if King had not been assassinated? How might the course of events in South Africa have been different if Mandela hadn't been imprisoned?
Definition: The nonpolitical rights of a citizen, especially the rights of personal liberty guaranteed to U.S. citizens by the Constitution.
Context: Martin Luther King, Jr. helped convince many white Americans to support the cause of black civil rights in the United States.
Definition: Something handed down from the past
Context: Today, many people are committed to finding ways to honor King's legacy.
Definition: The separation or isolation of a race, class, or ethnic group
Context: Martin Luther King Jr. challenged segregation and racial discrimination in the 1950s and 1960s.
This lesson plan addresses the following national standards:
The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)
NCSS has developed national guidelines for teaching social studies. To become a member of NCSS, or to view the standards online, go tohttp://www.socialstudies.org/standards/strands/.
This lesson plan addresses the following thematic standards: