Dr. King is honored for his work as one of the founders of the modern Civil Rights Movement and is most often remembered for his I Have a Dream speech in Washington in 1963. Starting with small-scale protests in the South in the mid-1950s, he built a diverse coalition of Americans that fought with him for equity and human rights through peaceful protests.
Countless other people of conscience have fought for social justice in the United States demonstrating a commitment to equity. Please see the second page of this handout for other notable examples that may inspire you.
Please choose one of the following prompts to guide your essay:
1) Using your own experiences, describe a situation or event that personally affected you, your friends, your family, your school, or your community. Explain how your own response (or someone elses response) to this situation followed, or could have followed, Dr. King’s principles and practice of nonviolence for a more just, equitable, or respectful outcome or aligns with the late Representative John Lewiss March 1, 2020 call from atop of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America.
2) Describe either an example of a person or group of which you have personal knowledge or have studied who stood for equality or justice and that you found to be inspirational and embodied Dr. Kings commitment to achieving racial, economic, and/or social justice and equity through principles of peace, non-violence, and justice or an example of when you or someone you knew applied the doctrine of the late John Lewis to make good trouble, necessary trouble for purposes of shifting from diversity to equity.
1) Format option 1: 400-700 words (~2-3 pages), double-spaced, font size: 12
2) Format option 2: a 2-3 minute video that showcases your perspective regarding one of the prompts 2) This essay contest is open to all 8th12th grade students.
3) One winner and two runners-up will be chosen from both the high school and the middle school. 4) One winning essayist will be featured at the Unity Breakfast on Monday, January 18, 2021. 5) All selected essayists agree to have their essays published and recorded.
6) Your entry is due to your Social Studies teacher no later than _________________________
In these cases and many others, it was the advocacy of everyday Americans for the rights and dignity of others that have led to a more just society.
Harriet Tubman, a famous abolitionist and early civil rights activist, escaped slavery in 1849 and conducted the Underground Railroad that led numerous slaves to freedom.
In 1889, Jane Addams founded a settlement house in Chicago that promoted social equity and opportunity. She later won the Nobel Peace Prize and helped start the American Civil Liberties Union.
In the 1940s, Felicitas La Prieta and Gonzalo Mndez were lead plaintiffs in a desegregation class action lawsuit after their three children were denied entry into a white school due to their Latinx heritage. Their push resulted in a landmark decision that acknowledged that schools designed for Latinx students were not equal to schools for White children.
In the early 1960s, John Lewis was a freedom rider who spoke at the March on Washington in 1963 and mobilized college students to be more strident in their actions, advocating that everyone get into good trouble, necessary trouble to fight for needed social change. He was elected to Congress in 1987 and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.
Cesar Chavez, a son of Mexican migrant workers, was a community and labor organizer who drew attention to the poor working and living conditions of farm workers who created a union for farm workers in 1962 and led successful national actions and boycotts in the late 1960s.
In May 1968, graduate students Emma Gee and Yuji Ichioka created the Asian American Political Alliance within the University of CaliforniaBerkeley that united and reformed the identity of Asian Americans in the United States and advocated for political and social action. The group advocated for solidarity across people of color helped trigger the creation of the ethnic studies departments within two universities.
The Reverend Jesse Jackson marched at Selma with Dr. King in 1965 and turned a Chicago-based social justice organization into a national movement. He ran for president in 1984 and 1988 and is a prominent social justice figure to this day.