April 4 - Martin Luther King's Assassination
On this date in 1968, Rev. King was staying at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. The previous day he had given his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. While standing on a balcony outside his room, King was shot by James Earl Ray. This violent end of a great life is made more poignant by King's unwavering commitment to nonviolent forms of protest.
Today, the Lorraine Motel has become part of the National Civil Rights Museum. It contains interpretive exhibits of the key events in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s. If you can't take your students there on a field trip, check out Alice Duncan's book titled The National Civil Rights Museum Celebrates Everyday People (Bridgewater, 1995; reading level gr. 3-5).
In response to Rev. King's assassination, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act on April 11, 1968. It added to the 24th Amendment (passed in 1964, as a result of the civil rights campaign led by King), making racial discrimination illegal in federally financed housing. To better acquaint students with dramatic period in U.S. history, read selections from Oh, Freedom! Kids Talks about the Civil Rights Movement with the People Who Made It Happen by Casey King and Linda B. Osborne (Knoph, 1997).
April 19 - Oklahoma City Bombing
Domestic terrorism became infinitely more personal and frightening to Americans as a result of the 1995 bombing of the Alfred Murrah Federal Building. Classroom discussions of this event can include:
- forms of political and social protest
- the increasing trend toward violence in American society
- stories of courage form survivors and rescue workers
- how people can have hope for the future in spite of tragedy
April 24 - Armenian Massacre
Armenia is one of the most ancient civilizations in the world. It became the first Christian state in 301 AD. A small mountainous country in western Asia, it has been controlled by outside powers for most of its history - Assyrians, Persians, Romans, Mongols, Turks, and Russians.
The harshest treatment of Armenians came from the Turkish government, which closed its schools and confiscated church property. Then in 1915, the Turks launched a massacre of Armenians. Between 1915 and 1923, more than one million Armenians were killed by Turkish forces. Everyone's Note Here: Families of the Armenian Genocide (Armenian Assembly, 1989) by William S. Parsons is a study guide for use in grades 7-12. Another helpful resource is Some of Us Survived: The Story of an Armenian Boy (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1979) for grades 6-and up) by Kerop Bedoukian.
As a result of their oppression, millions of Armenians emigrated to the United States. If you have students of Armenian descent, invite them and their parents to share their customs with the class. Have students research Armenia's long history of persecution. Read stories about Armenian Americans. One of the best written from an evangelical perspective is Pearl by Donita Dyer (out of print but available through interlibrary loan).
April 29 - Los Angeles Riots
One of the worst riots in U.S. history occurred in south central Los Angeles. This 1992 event was ignited by the acquittal of four white police officers charged with the beating of Rodney King. In the course of the rioting, 58 people were killed, hundreds injured, and countless homes and businesses destroyed or looted. Middle and high school students can benefit from discussion and research regarding:
- the underlying cause of anger and violence in American cities,
- the need for personal responsibility and respect for the law,
- the dangers of mob action,
- the aftermath of the L.A. rioting (rebuilding a community)
- heroes of the riot (rescuers), and
- national efforts in racial reconciliation.