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House on Mango Street

Teacher’s Guide

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 will:

  1. 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.
  2. Read and discuss a range of King’s ideas almost completely unknown to most of the public today.
  3. 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.
Essential Questions
  • 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):

Day One

  • 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?
Day Two
  • 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?

    Homework: Read excerpts of King’s speeches and writings. Identify lines that stand out as interesting, deep, meaningful, moving or surprising.

Day Three  
  • 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.
Day Four

Use student handout to guide students in writing an “article” about students learning about King’s “unknown” ideas.

Teacher's Guide
Essential Questions
Day One
Day Two
Day Three
Day Four
Additional Projects/Activities I
Additional Projects/Activities II
Additional Projects/Activities III
Additional Projects/Activities IV
Transcript of TV Reports
Michael Eric Dyson
  Materials for Other Activities
Instructions for Essay on King's Giant Triplets
Who Killed Martin Luther King?
St. Martin, The Militant
All Things Censored
Native American Resistance
Day Of Shame
Samples Of Student Work

Urban Dreams
OUSD Curriculum Unit
Hidden In Plain Sight -
Martin Luther King, Jr.'s
Radical Vision
Subject: U.S. History
Grade Level: 11th

Lesson Plan Author:
Craig Gordon
Organization: OUSD