Teaching Tolerance Magazine Commemorates 40th Anniversary of King's Death With Lesson Plans and Special Essay by Congressman John Lewis

In commemoration of the upcoming 40th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s death, the Spring 2008 issue of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Teaching Tolerance magazine includes aspecial teaching package about the civil rights leader and an exclusive essay by Congressman John Lewis that examines King's legacy.

The issue, released today on King's birthday, includes a color poster for classroom use that features a dramatic photo of King on one side and an extended timeline of his life on the other. Rounding out the package are a lesson plan insert with activities for all grades and Six Lessons from Jena, a guide to help educators prevent hate crimes.

Lewis, who marched with King during the civil rights movement, considers the progress made and the challenges that remain in "Reflections on a Dream Deferred." One of the most courageous figures of the movement, Lewis helped found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and participated in key events of the era, including lunch counter sit-ins, the Freedom Rides of 1961 and the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., in 1965.

Lewis writes that today, just as when King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, our nation is engulfed in war abroad and consumed with violence and hate at home.

"A culture of violence has sprung up among us that is gnawing at the soul of our society, a culture which justifies brutality, torture and cruelty," writes the 11-term Georgia congressman. "In 1968, we could not avoid the signs of overt racism and hatred in our daily lives. Forty years later, we are still reckoning with those same symbols of hate, whether through a noose hung on a tree in Jena, La., or on a professor's door at Columbia University."

Lewis says that while blacks, women and other minorities occupy leadership positions believed impossible 40 years ago, progress must be made on other fronts before King's dream of equality is fulfilled. Our nation, for instance, spends too much on war and not enough on meeting basic human needs like health care, he writes.

"Yes, we are closer, but we still have a great distance we must travel before we build a Beloved Community, a nation and a world society at peace with itself," Lewis writes.

The new issue of Teaching Tolerance also includes timely feature stories, each with resource and classroom activity ideas:


  • "Proceed with Caution" examines how simulations, a mainstay of classroom teaching, might do as much harm as good by perpetuating stereotypes, oversimplifying history and breeding conflict and trauma.
  • "Opening Doors on the Border" explores an innovative program for migrant parents and children that is making a difference in schools and student success in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.
  • "Does My Town Have a Racist Past?" shows students how to find out if their town had exclusionary "sundown" policies, transforming a shameful history into a rich opportunity to set the record straight.
  • "Making Numbers Count" illustrates how teachers can bring math to life in the classroom with lessons that show how numbers can be used to transform people, politics and communities.


As in every issue, the popular "Teaching Tools" section reviews the best multicultural books, films, posters and CDs available, and the "Activity Exchange" provides classroom ideas for early, middle and upper grades. "Story Corner," especially designed for younger students, provides a rich, entertaining fable illustrating a lesson in diversity.

Teaching Tolerance magazine, published twice a year by the Southern Poverty Law Center, is the nation's leading journal serving educators on diversity issues. In 2007, the magazine was named Periodical of the Year by the Association of Educational Publishers for the second consecutive year. The current issue is being sent free to more than 400,000 school professionals across the country.