Why Black History Month Matters

Today marks the start of Black History Month. We have an awesome opportunity as teachers and parents to highlight the achievements of African Americans this month, and help teach our children that people are people, regardless of skin tone or ethnicity. In this world, we should NEVER miss an opportunity to teach acceptance and tolerance to our kids!

So this month, I’ll be focusing every Monday on an influential African American, and providing tips and project ideas to bring these amazing humans into your teaching practice.

On most Thursdays, I’ll be focusing on research basics: creating citations, finding sources, and taking notes. I’ll be posting activities in Teachers Pay Teachers that will help you with ALL of these activities!

Plus, we’ll examine whether or not Lincoln REALLY did free the slaves. I’ll be creating (hopefully soon) a webquest to help your upper elementary/middle/high school students investigate this topic on their own.

But let’s back up and focus: Black History Month.

What is Black History Month?

african-36432_640This celebration dates back to 1915, when Carter G. Woodson and Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH). In 1926, the ASNLH sponsored a Negro History week during the second week of February. The birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass fall in the same month.

Schools and communities hosted celebrations, hosted speakers or presentations, and were inspired to form history clubs. As the Civil Rights movement brought African American history into a prominent position, many college campuses started hosting month long Black History Month events.

In 1976, President Gerald Ford declared February to be Black History Month. He wanted Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

Since that then, every US President has continued the tradition of naming February as the official Black History Month. There is usually a theme for the year, highlighting a specific historic anniversary or important event/field.

What Schools Can Do

Black History Month offers a way to make your classroom, no matter the size or demographics, more inclusive of ALL people.

When you look at a lot of history, it is mainly a bunch of old white guys. I’m not trying to be mean; this is just the way it is, mostly. Sure, there are the occasional female leader (Queen Elizabeths I and II, I’m looking at you!) and amazing contributions by men of all races (Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Ghandi, Douglass, you gentlemen rock!), but for the most part we hear about white dudes.

This month, let’s change that! It’s actually fairly easy at every grade level.

  1. Make racially inclusive material available. Raid your town and school libraries for picture books and biographies (or a picture book biography) and just leave them out. Kids will read what is in front of them, so you might be surprised how much they will read and learn from these books.
  2. Highlight African-American achievements. Use posters, printed off images, or “Did You Know?” charts to share information to all students.
  3. Use morning work or homeroom to offer interesting tidbits. Assign a close reading passage and response page, use Scholastic News, or back issues of magazines with articles about famous African-Americans.
  4. Do research projects about famous African-Americans. Be on the look out for my posts about a small selection of these individuals, and keep checking the TpT store for materials to use while researching.
  5. YouTube is invaluable. From Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech to Crash Course’s Civil Rights video lesson, kids will have an awesome time exploring virtually.

How do you celebrate Black History Month with your children or students?

~Meg

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