This week, as Americans throughout the country commemorated the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, CPS students at King College Prep High School participated in a special project to honor the memory of the civil rights leader for whom their school was named.
On Wednesday, August 28 – 50 years to the day of both the landmark “I Have a Dream” speech and the historic March on Washington – students in history classes at King College Prep presented their own version of The Race Card Project - an international conversation about race conducted through six-word essays.
Launched in 2010 by National Public Radio (NPR) correspondent Michele Norris, the Race Card Project encourages people to think about their experiences with race and cultural identity, then asks them to convert those thoughts into one six-word sentence.
“I found the idea of distilling your thoughts about race into one short sentence powerful and approachable for our students,” said Andre Varnado, a history teacher at King and an avid NPR listener.
When he presented the idea to his colleagues, all agreed that it would be an appropriate way to mark the important civil rights anniversary occurring during the first week of school. Students were put into small groups, then asked to create a collective Race Card and present it to the class. Some examples of their six-word essays included:
“Judge by quality, not by color”
“Equality can be reality. Integration. Celebration.”
“The speech, the dream, our fate.”
According to Jim Staros, Chair of the Social Studies Department at King, creating the Race Cards sparked conversation about the many accomplishments of past civil rights leaders and the amount of work that still needs to be done.
“The theme of my class is ‘What kind of society do you want to live in?’” he said. “Posing that question to the students got them talking about what actions need to be taken to improve race relations in our country, which seemed fitting, since the March on Washington was all about action.”
Staros and his colleagues at King also presented their students with an overview of the civil rights movement, including lesser known facts about what occurred in Washington, D.C. on August 28, 1963.
“We talked about how the organizers had no idea if people would even show up for the march, and about how the passionate speech Dr. King gave that day wasn’t even what he had planned to say,” said Staros.
According to the faculty at King, recognizing these seminal moments in the civil rights movement stresses to their students that as a community, they stand on the shoulders of not only Dr. King, but all of the 250,000 attendees of the March on Washington and the untold masses that had the courage to stand up for justice during the struggle for civil rights.
“The chance to commemorate the 50th anniversary with a special lesson was something that we as a department felt was important, particularly at Dr. King’s namesake school,” said Andre Varnado.