Weekly Warm-Up: The Street Fight for Martin Luther King, Jr.

Do your students know the names of the streets they take to get to school? Chances are, they may know some of the road names on their routes, but they may not know the history behind their names.

This week, ask your students to take a closer look at the street signs they pass every day. Do they know the significance behind the names?

The names of streets can tell us a lot about a place. Perhaps some roads near you are named for historical figures or prominent members of your community. By looking into why streets have the names that they do, you and your students can learn more about your community and those who had influence on it.

Photograph by Derek Alderman

In the years since his death, many people have wanted streets in their cities and towns named after the great civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.. The effort to name a street after King brings up many questions: What groups or organizations support the effort? What is the racial or ethnic background of these communities? Does it matter where in the community the street is located?

Use The Politics of Place-Naming activity in your classroom to help students identify geographic, social, and economic patterns in streets named after Martin Luther King, Jr..

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What does this activity teach your students? Discuss with your students how they think their community would respond to a request to name a road after Martin Luther King, Jr..

Can they think of any other historic or contemporary person that should be honored with a street name? Would other people agree with their choice?


More related resources from National Geographic Education

This Day in Geographic History: 1929 – Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King, Jr.

Activity: Many Ways to Name a Place

Activity: Diversity in New York Place Names

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