Black History Month has been celebrated for 100 years but all too often gets relegated to a couple of lessons and some wall art that stays up for a couple of weeks. In a set of guidelines titled “Do’s and Don’ts of Teaching Black History” by Pat Russo of the State University of New York (Oswego), there are several ways for teachers to increase the impact of Black History lessons on students. Among Russo’s suggestions:
- Reinforce that black history is American history. Too often, Black history is treated as series of isolated events that happened in bubble and that pertains only to African-Americans. This is American history for all students.
- Incorporate black history year-round. Incorporate contributions made by African Americans as applicable through-out subject areas during the entire school year.
- Connect past issues with current ones. As any teacher knows, making the subject matter relevant to student’s lives drives the point of a lesson home.
- Don’t put aside you regular curriculum to teach a specific lesson that seems out of the ordinary from what the students regularly learn. It can be too easy to make such lessons seem irrelevant to “the big picture.” At worst, it may trivialize what is being taught.
- Don’t leave the impression that black history is something that does not pertain to today. Draw connections between how events or people’s actions in the past affect society today.
- Don’t limit lessons to lectures or reading. Provide time for student discussions.
Below are resources, many with complete lesson plans, which can help broaden student exposure and understanding of black history:
The National Education Association has a wealth of lesson plans for Black History Month, as does the National Endowment for the Humanities. National Geographic has consolidated dozens of stories – some interactive – that are good for both teachers and student research. The Library of Congress has a place to find Images on African-American History.
The theme for Black History Month 2016 is “Hallowed Grounds: Sites of African American Memories,” according to Association for the Study of African American Life and History, which worked with the National Park Service to identify relevant specific locations nationwide. Your state Historical Society will probably have more local resources.
Teachinghistory.org has assembled Learning resources, teaching resources and even provides quizzes about black history for all ages. Additional learning resources, tied to lists of African-American “Firsts” for multiple categories are available at Blackpast.org. Lesson plans and activities revolving around Martin Luther King, Jr, including a worksheet to help students write their own “I Have a Dream, Too” speech, are available here.
Finally, the NAACP will text you a daily fact about Black History every day in February.