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House on Mango Street
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Midway through this short unit, after having the students read a variety excerpts from King’s writings and speeches I asked students what they were most surprised to learn.  Here are a few of the more engaged responses:

  • I thought he was only speaking towards or among African Americans only.  I definitely didn’t know that he wanted to help the (Vietnamese) peasants in action concerning the land reform by the landlords… All this time I thought he was a motivational speaker for African Americans.  I guess I was wrong all this time…

… I am surprise because I thought he was speaking on behalve of African Americans, but he’s speaking for everyone that has government or racial issues.  Like the U.S. against Vietnam.

…My view is that the media is trying to cover up what America really did…And also the media is covering up the other ideas is that they realize King’s ideas and views are true and they’re ashamed of what they did.  So they used King’s “I Have a Dream” to cover it up and try to ignore it.

  • His significance is so profound that I cannot describe it in words.  He has impacted this world so much.  He brought only the beginning to fight all the injustices that we face.  He is the one that started the hopeful dream.
  • Is Martin Luther King’s dream actually achievable?  Or is it really just a dream?
  • I never knew that he said anything like I read in this artical, how they “poisoned their waters and kill million acres of their crops.”   …I never thought he really cared about anything outside of America.
  • What I didn’t know was what he wanted to do for Vietnam.  He said the bulldozers destroyed their areas and the precious trees, poison their water and kill a million acres of crops.  He said if “we ignore this sobering reality, we will find ourselves organizing committees for the next generation.”  I never heard this whole speech before and I thought it was cool that he wanted to help not just the African Americans but Vietnamese.”
  • What I don’t know is his views on the government’s investment and the economy.  As also the fact that he believes the government see things and money to be more important than a person’s well-being:  “When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” … …I am surprised that he describe things to be more important to the government than people.  And I am also surprised that he talks about how the profits from the investments has no concern for the “social betterment” of the people.  I didn’t know that he’s a politician and knows a lot about the economy.  I believe these other ideas are ignored because some of King’s views here conflicts with politicians’ views about the government and how it was like then.  Plus these words come hastily at the government and I guess people or the media didn’t want to make his views to be publicize – or maybe they are being prevented by the government from allowing the public to know.
  • I didn’t know that his plan was to “mobilize and train thousands of poor and allies to camp out [in front of the White House] with him until they help the urgent poors.   He planned to group all the poors together, no matter the color, race.  I didn’t know he wanted unity, well maybe I did, but I didn’t know he fought for the justice of poor people of all color and race.
  • It surprises me how the lives of Vietnamese are ruined and their homeland is destroyed.  A war can be very destructive as the details showed here.  It said the American bases killed a million acres of their crops.  They destroyed the beautiful and precious trees.  Most importantly, the military counsels killed one million of Vietnamese.  This brings a large amount of resentment and hatred towards the American government.  One million is no small figure.  It takes dozens of years for a nation to recover.  All losses, including property and people’s way of living.  They may have certain devastating changes.  Most importantly, it surprises me that King can speak so plainly and frankly that what his nation did, particularly it means something bad and unapproved by majority.

…Martin Luther King is famous for his speech, “I have a dream.”  … Nowadays, the press emphasizes this idea and seems to ignore the others.  I think this is because the other issues may contradict to what we have today.  They are abuse, use of violence, criticism on the whites, economic inequality and so on.  These are too political and will obviously affect the status of the government.  Owing to the sensitivity, I think the media do not want to tell all of them. Besides, they are the exact problems of the society now.  Like the military expansion of America and her self-regarded role as international police.  This is foreseen when Dr. King led the freedom struggle.

The following are excerpted from the students’ work on a cloze exercise structuring the writing of a simple newspaper article on how students learned new things about Martin Luther King.    (The italicized words are taken from the form given students to write the “article.”)

·        Marianna thinks she knows why most Americans never hear about this side of Dr. King.  “Because I guess they never wanted us to learned the true meaning about the speech I have a dream, but is cool that we are learning [now] all of this,” she said.

·        Alisha thinks she knows why most Americans never hear about this side of Dr. King. “They just want to make it seem that all he cared about is that dream he had.  They don’t want us to know that there were other issues he was concerned with that are deeper and more serious than his dream,” she said.

·        As an example of why King’s words are still relevant today, s/he said, “If you take a look around in our neighborhood it’s rare to find a white person.  It’s seems like your more likely to live in bad conditions if you’re a minority in this country.

·             But Reconstructions didn’t go far enough, and its gains were quickly reversed, said Alexis.  “For example, “There were a large amount of Black men in government, but before they knew there weren’t any more black men in government.”

           Martin Luther King understood that the freedom struggle was a second attempt at Reconstrution, gbut that it had to go much deeper this time to achieve true equality, explained  Trisha.   That’s why he said, “The whirlwinds of  revolt will continue to shake the foundation of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.”

·        Karmen said that she understands the connection between the problems of African Americans and similar issues faced by other people of color and many whites in the U.S. and in other countries.  Some of our common problems are, “living in poverty, lack of jobs, less education, and trying overcome the racist people who keep us down.”

To solve these problems, we’re going to need to, “take a stand for ourselves, know our history to that we can go further on our jouney toward equality.”

·        Adja thinks she knows why most Americans never hear about this side of Dr. King.  His views and concerns were never brought out, because America did not want to be reminded by all of these issues.  The media seems not allow everyone to be informed about how King had struggled against poverty which still exists today,” she said.

    As an example of why King’s words are still relevant today, she said, “Kin had biven out a line of how life is like then and now.  He somehow had predicted most of the injustices and problems that can be associated with today.  Besides in his only “I have a dream” speech, I believe King had a lot of other dreams.  He maybe even have nightmares about the Vietnam war.

·        Martin Luther King understood that the freedom struggle was a second attempt at Reconstruction, gbut that it had to go much deeper this time to achieve true equality,explained Sonia Silva.  That’s why he said, we’ve got to give ourselves to this struggle until the end.  Nothing would be more tragic than to stop at this point.  We’ve got to see it through.”

·        Billy Jenkins said that he understands the connection between the problems of African Americans and similar issues faced by other people of color and many whites in the U.S. and in other countries.  Some of our common problems are, “poverty and the class structures are the main problem almost all of us.  There is also the case of discrimination because of our sex, race or gender,” he said.  

          To solve these problems, we’re going to need to “bond together and force the government to see and resolve our problems.  Let everyone see that we are all the same with a head and a brain.”

·        As an example of why King’s words are still relevant today, she said, “King knows economy of the nation and status of the colored people are closely linked.  When there is a wide gap between the wealth of the poor and the rich, there will be more conflicts.  So he guaranteed annual income to the workers of the lower class, like the sanitary workers.”

·        She wants to answer this question:  Why is the United States actively enganged n other countries’ affairs?”

·        He wants to investigate this question:  Why they considered some man heroes if they are the worse man in history and they know that, so why we commemorate their birthdays like an big success.

·        Martin Luther King understood that the freedom struggle was a second attempt at Reconstrution, but that it had to go much deeper this time to achieve true equality,” explained Jim Do.  That’s why he said,  Non violent protest must now mature to a new liever.  The storm will not abate until a just distribution of the fruits of the earth…”

·        I didn’t know that King suggested a program that he believed was a solution for white and Negro racial and economic problem.  This program was called measure:  guaranteed annual income.  I also didn’t know that King supported the union movement that supported unskilled labor workers and protected them from these enterprises who were unorganized and provided low wages with longer hours.

Yes, I’m very surprised about what King says on this page, because just when I started reading the passage it kept my attention.  I was concentrated more than the other text;  this sentence made me stop and think of the meaning of the words.  The words were so clear and powerful and I thought how difficult it is to fight against discrimination.

·        Martin Luther King understood that the freedom struggle was a second attempt at Reconstruction, but that it had to go much deeper this time to achieve true equality, explained Andy Bee.  That’s why he said, “A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies.  It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

·        William said that what he discovered about King’s ideas was so inspiring that he already has ideas about questions to pursue next semester.  For example, he wants to investigate this question:  Who killed Martin Luther King and why?

·        Martin Luther King understood that the freedom struggle was a second attempt at Reconstruction, but that it had to go much deeper this time to achieve true equality, explained Mason.  That’s why he said, “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor.  It must be demanded by the oppressed.”

… wants to investigate this question:  The world today is different from King’s time. Is it still necessary to fight for freedom? 

  • Thuy thinks she knows why most Americans never hear about this side of Dr. King.  “We never hear about King’s other ideas because the people in power are afraid that we might try to take up some of King’s ideas and make it a reality.

…already has ideas about questions to pursue next semester.  For example, she wants to investigate this question:  If Martin Luther King, Jr., had not been killed, would our world or society still be the same today?

Teacher's Guide
Essential Questions
Summary
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