Reimagining Martin Luther King Day

Why Reimagining Martin Luther King Day?

Civil rights is often viewed as an historical event, led by a handful of heroes. However, civil rights is an ongoing struggle which builds on history and engages diverse groups in addressing current issues that they experience or observe in their everyday lives.


Reimagining Martin Luther King Day offers opportunities for all students and teachers to strengthen civil rights and social justice by organizing projects in their schools and communities. The projects can be small or large, and can happen any time during the year. For example, we can envision students and teachers coming together to plan a school assembly, or create a new course, or organize a march for social justice.


Martin Luther King was an unyielding force for civil rights and social justice. Martin Luther King Day is a time to celebrate his legacy. We believe that Dr. King would have wanted us to prepare a new generation of civil rights leaders, and to remember him with projects year round.


We invite you to share or link  your projects on the academy website.

Illustrative Project Ideas

There are many ways of Reimagining Martin Luther King.  Here is a list of ideas to stimulate your own:


  • Hold public forums and youth dialogues on civil rights issues
  • Adopt written policies and practices to strengthen social justice in schools
  • Create courses on diversity dialogue and social justice
  • Conduct workshops for teachers to learn how to handle sensitive situations
  • Establish a youth civil rights leadership academy
  • Form a diversity and social justice group
  • Hold a schoolwide conference about overcoming discrimination
  • Train teachers to facilitate sensitive discussions
  • Meet with administrators to stop bullying in schools
  • Challenge school authorities to close the achievement gap
  • Conduct educational workshops about freedom of speech
  • Preparing youth leaders to overcome educational inequalities
  • Surveying student attitudes about prejudice and discrimination
  • Organize a poetry slam for students on what actions Martin Luther King would take for civil rights if he were alive today
  • Organize a day in which students teach teachers about the rights of racial minorities
  • Establish a high school course on diversity and inclusion
  • Plan a school assembly on how to respond to stereotypes
  • Conduct town meetings on educational justice in the library
  • Put posters of ethnic heroes on the hallway walls

You can create change

Students are reimagining Martin Luther King Day, with a growing record of activities and accomplishments. Here are some examples of what others are doing:


Research shows that successful projects enable students to join together, get organized, develop leadership, and involve adults who help accomplish the goals.

Getting Started
1. Get organized.

Make contact with a few other students who share your commitment and with whom you can work in a small group. Discuss your ideas and then include others — students, adult allies, community members — in your planning. Form a diverse group whose members include student leaders and supportive adults who bring additional resources.

2. Clarify your purpose.

What do you want to accomplish? Generate a list of ideas and select your priorities. Brainstorming enables you to put your heads together and choose ones that will engage the most people, stand the greatest chances of success, and fit your resources. Prepare an action plan that includes who will do what by when.

3. Build support for your project.

Identify the individuals and groups that can participate in the process — not just students and teachers, but also parents and community members who can add clout to the project.

4. Share with others.

It is important to reach out and inform others about the project — reaching out with information and enabling them to participate — face-to-face, small groups, school newspaper, social media — and inviting them to meetings.

5. Take pictures and make your own video.

Assign someone to take pictures and video the events. You are telling a story that others will want to learn. If you prepare a YouTube or Vimeo video and send it to the academy, we will publicize your work widely in ways that inspire others to follow your example.

6. Evaluate your project. 

This is the time to step back, take stock, and reflect on your work. It can be formal or informal, and examine both your activities and also the outcomes. How many people attended the events? What were the effects on your school and community? Did it affect you and, if so, how?

7. Following up.

Reimagining MLK Day is not a one-time event, but about establishing a new process that can continue into the future. Now is the time to talk with younger students about how they can continue the work, and ask teachers for ideas and suggestions about sustaining the work over the long haul.