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Martin Luther King Jr. Reading Passage (Grade 5)

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Martin Luther King Jr. Reading Passage

American - Martin Luther King Jr

In 1963 Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested and sent to jail because he and others were protesting the treatment of blacks in Birmingham, Alabama. A court had ordered that King could not hold protests in Birmingham. Birmingham in 1963 was a hard place for blacks to live in. Everything was segregated, from businesses to churches to libraries. Blacks faced constant discrimination and the constant threat of violence.

What is segregation?

To segregate is to separate from others. What this meant in Montgomery is that blacks could only sit in certain places in restaurants, that they could not go into certain businesses or that they could not use public rest rooms that were for "whites only."

While King was in jail, he wrote a letter to the newspaper explaining why he had broken the law. "I am here because injustice is here," he wrote. "I would agree with Saint Augustine that 'an unjust law is no law at all.'"

Because black people had suffered injustice for so long, King believed they should not have to wait any longer for change.

King believed nonviolence was essential for him as a man of God. He also believed that violence would ruin the chances for change. King and others were willing to go to jail for the cause of civil rights.

-- From America's Story
Based on the passage, you can infer that Martin Luther King Jr. supported...
  1. following all of the laws
  2. refusing to follow unjust laws
  3. not following any of the laws
  4. making his own laws to follow
Why didn't Martin Luther King Jr. act violently?
  1. He was afraid of being arrested and going to jail.
  2. He didn't want to hurt anyone else.
  3. He only acted violently when the situation called for violence.
  4. He believed violence would only hurt the situation, not help it.
Why was Martin Luther King Jr. willing to go to jail?
  1. To keep others from going to jail
  2. To protest the unjust nature of the laws
  3. To accept punishment for a just crime
  4. To receive fair treatment under the law
Which is NOT an example of segregation?
  1. Not allowing blacks at a lunch counter
  2. Having a "whites only" drinking fountain
  3. Only allowing whites in a grocery store
  4. Letting blacks and whites ride a city bus
Martin Luther King Jr. broke laws he considered unjust and was arrested and thrown into jail multiple times.

What do you think about his methods? Was it okay to break these laws? Was this the best way to make his point?

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