Hidden in Plain Sight:
Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Radical Vision
Developed and piloted by Craig Gordon, Fremont High School
in collaboration with Urban Dreams and the Martin Luther
King, Jr. Papers Project in January, 2001
Revised, January, 2003
Last year, I was trying to get my U.S. History class to
focus on a passage from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s
1967 book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?
Unfortunately, I was not surprised when a student protested,
“We already know about him. We’re tired of hearing
about Martin Luther King.” So I asked, “Okay,
what do you know about him?” “He had a dream,”
another student replied as others laughed. I insisted that
there was infinitely more to King and his ideas than one
very famous speech. “Well, that’s all they ever
show us,” someone complained. “And that’s
why I’m trying to show you something new about him,”
I responded, showing, I hope, only a hint of my frustration.
The following unit attempts to help students penetrate
the curtain of clichés and lies the corporate media
have erected around Martin Luther King, Jr., in order to
make him “safe” for public consumption. My objectives
for students who participate in these lessons are that they
- Explicitly identify the ways in which Martin Luther
King, Jr. is portrayed in the mass media, and specifically,
which of his ideas are communicated to the public.
- Read and discuss a range of King’s ideas almost
completely unknown to most of the public today.
- Reflect upon why many of King’s ideas introduced
in this lesson are almost never referenced in the mass
media or in U.S. History textbooks.
- What were the major ideas of Martin Luther King, Jr.,
and why aren’t they more publicly known?
- How do the media depict King and his ideas and why?
A Very Brief Summary
of the Unit (roughly four hours):
- Discussion of the ways the early civil rights movement
influenced and inspired others and of what would happen
if nobody knew about these events or about Martin Luther
King and could it be that we really don’t know about
Dr. King, after all?
- Survey what we already know about King and analyze
the broadcast and print news stories on MLK Day. Does
this news coverage add significant information to our
knowledge of King’s ideas?
- Form groups of students who have read different parts
of the handout with King quotes. (jig saw) Share lines
that most impressed students in their respective section
of the reading and discuss what impressed them most.
- Read a “class poem” by having each student
read a line that impressed her/him in quick succession,
one student after the other, until the whole class has
read a line.