It is Black history this month, and many children will honor Dr. King by reciting his “I Have A Dream Speech”. But if your child has already memorized this speech they may be interested in learning more about great speakers and speeches throughout Black History. If this is the case, here are a few more options to consider:
First read Fredrick Douglas’s famous speech What, to a slave, is the Fourth of July, opens a new window, given in 1852, nine years before the start of the Civil War. Listen to excerpts of this speech read by actor James Earl Jones, and, opens a new window if his reading inspired you to listen to the entire speech click this link Frederick Douglass | What To The Slave Is The 4th of July?, opens a new window
Then be moved by Sojourner Truth’s brief and powerful speech Ain’t I A Woman., opens a new window With a few words, she asks a basic question: if she isn’t going to be treated equally to a free man, why she can’t be given the same courtesies of a free woman?
Next, discover Marcus Garvey, opens a new window and his speech If You Believe the Negro Has a Soul., opens a new window At the time his ideas were considered controversial; yet he delivers them with passion, eloquence, and intelligence.
Now Google the videos of Fannie Lou Hamer, opens a new window and her testimony in front of the Democratic National Convention., opens a new window In this speech she describes the violence she suffered from policemen when arrested for registering to vote in Mississippi. Her simple heartfelt words inspired many to not only vote but to support everyone's right to do so.
Once you have listed to these speeches, return to the March on Washington. However, do not revisit Dr. King’s speech. Instead, listen to the late Congressmen John Lewis, opens a new window and his speech., opens a new window If you must have your children memorize something from the March on Washington, consider this quote:
"To those who have said, “Be patient and wait,” we have long said that we cannot be patient. We do not want our freedom gradually, but we want to be free now! We are tired. We are tired of being beaten by policemen. We are tired of seeing our people locked up in jail over and over again. And then you holler, “Be patient.” How long can we be patient? We want our freedom and we want it now!"
Once you have enjoyed these speakers, listen to Dr. Martin Luther King's The Other America., opens a new window I'll be teaching my children passages from this speech to recite this year. I’ll smile boldly and my chest will swell with pride when I hear my son's say:
Even though it may be true that the law cannot change the heart, it can restrain the heartless. Even though it may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, it can restrain him from lynching me. And I think that's pretty important also. And so while the law may not change the hearts of men, it can and does change the habits of men. And when you begin to change the habits of men, pretty soon the attitudes will be changed; pretty soon the hearts will be changed.”
So let's celebrate these brave people for having the courage to speak against injustice and change the laws of the past. Because of their voices, hearts are beginning to follow.