To be honest, I’m a bit torn about the whole idea of Black History Month. The concept started way back in 1926 when historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History announced the second week of February to be “Negro History Week.” That particular week was chosen because it marked the birthday of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.
The hope was that the week would eventually be eliminated when black history became fundamental to American history teaching. In 1976, the federal government followed the lead of the Black United Students at Kent State and established the entire month as Black History Month. President Ford urged Americans, and especially teachers and schools, to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
The hope was that essential people, events, and places, routinely ignored, would be incorporated throughout the instructional year as part of social studies instruction.
But I’m torn.
Jode Vilson puts it pretty well in an article titled If You’re Teaching Black History This Way, Please Stop:
First, I’d like to acknowledge that, on the chance that you’re actually celebrating Black History Month, congrats. You haven’t let the Common Core madness deter you from celebrating culture, whether it’s your own or someone else’s. The decorations will spring up. Common faces like Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Benjamin Banneker, and Will Smith will border the walls of a few classrooms, and probably a few hallways. There might be a fact-a-day in the announcements, and one in 400 schools might have someone who knows the Black National Anthem.
But, has it ever occurred to you that, as well-intentioned as this might be, we ought to take the next step and celebrate Black history on March 1st as well?
Why am I torn? Too many social studies teachers still use February to have kids memorize random black history facts and call it good. (We also have a habit of doing the same thing with women’s history and Latino history and Asian American history and Native American history and . . . well, pretty much anything that’s not Dead White Guy history.)
I’m torn because I know many are looking for great Black History month resources. And I have a list. But part of me is afraid that it will only get used between now and February 28.
Here’s the rule. Use these resources during February but you get to cherry pick just one or two things off the list for now. Save some for March. Save some for April. Save some for . . . well, you get the idea. Black History is our history. Black history and women’s history and Latino history and Asian American history and Native American history and Dead White Guy history are all part of who we are. We’re all part of the story and we need to tell it better.
We’re clear about the rule? Okay. Here’s the 2013 list:
Flight to Freedom Underground Railroad simulation.
African American History Month from the Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
pays tribute to the generations of African Americans who struggled with adversity to achieve full citizenship in American society.
ThinkFinity, the great metasearch tool from the Verizon Foundation, has a lot of great stuff. I like their post about Black History and the Common Core. And they link to a very cool list of art from ArtsEdge about the African American experience through the arts
eHow created an interesting take of the Black History Month lesson plan idea called How to Write Lesson Plans for Black History Month.
I really like the stuff that the Smithsonian has put together. There’s a wide variety of goodies – from artists to authors to musicians. They’ve also created an incredible African American Cultural Heritage Tour with images, audio, questions and quizzes.
The History Channel’s Black History site has a ton of videos, quizzes, images and information.
The National Archives has a huge list of Black History resources. Use this together with four great sites from the Library of Congress – The African American Mosaic, African American Odyssey, Civil Rights Exhibitions and Presentations and From Slavery to Civil Rights.
Larry Ferlazzo always has great lists of stuff and his African American list is no exception. (Be prepared to spend some time here!)
The New York Times Learning Network has a list of teacher suggestions for teaching the Civil Rights Movement.
Before you jump into lesson plans, read The Do’s and Don’ts of Teaching Black History, a good guide from Teaching Tolerance.
A collection of lesson plan sites:
- National Museum of African American History and Culture
- New York Times
- Education World
- The Lesson Plans Page
- African American: Free Resources and Materials
- Teacher Ideas: New York Times Learning Network
- National Education Association