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10 Ways to Teach Black History All Year Round
When Matthew Patterson taught Beyoncé’s Lemonade to his high schoolers, he wasn’t just “pandering to the students’ desire to talk about a pop star”—he was creating a classroom culture that reflected the school community, and choosing content that better engaged his students.
So, instead of leaving black history in February, take a lesson from Mr. Patterson, and consider committing to a syllabus that regularly celebrates the work and history of African Americans. As Bridge Fellow Zay Collier put it, “Our kids are missing stories that can inspire them and remind them of who and what they can be.” With that in mind, here are some of our favorite resources for giving students from all backgrounds rich exposure to black history all year round:
- Black History Month Is Over. Now What? (Teaching Tolerance). A candid discussion of the importance of celebrating black history throughout the school year, and several suggestions on how to do so, inside and outside of the classroom.
- A Hidden Figures Lesson Plan (The Max Ray Blog). Math teacher Max Ray-Riek shares more than just a lesson plan; he also provides a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the lesson, discussing his experience building culturally responsive content as a non-black teacher of color.
- Exploring Fannie Lou Hamer (PBS LearningMedia). This photo-centric teaching guide draws on a collection of primary source materials to explore the life Fannie Lou Hamer and her contributions to the Civil Rights Movement in rural Mississippi.
- Teaching with Historic Places: Civil Rights and Racial Healing (The National Park Service). Created by preservation professionals and educators, these lesson plans give students the chance to take tours of historical landmarks like The Mary McLeod Bethune Council House and the homes of Frederick Douglass, all without leaving the classroom—and it’s also a great place to find your next field trip.
- American Experience: The Abolitionists (PBS LearningMedia). This collection of classroom-ready media assets (like historical reenactments and interviews) tells the story of the early anti-slavery activists, and highlights their racial and socioeconomic diversity.
- Lists on Race, Racism & The Civil Rights Movement (Larry Ferlazzo). English and Social Studies teacher and blogger Larry Ferlazzo has created several “Best Lists” from “The Best Explanations for Why You Shouldn’t Say ‘All Lives Matter’” to “The Best Resources on the Smithsonian’s African-American Museum,” all built with English language learner classrooms in mind.
- Calendar Activities (ReadWriteThink). This interactive calendar provides short lessons for nearly every day of the year, celebrating historical events like the Central High School integration, and the birthdays of Coretta Scott King, Ida B. Wells, Richard Wright, and Maya Angelou.
- The Harlem Renaissance (BrainPOP). Games, interactive maps, and a short animated video introduce the Harlem Renaissance and explain complex topics like W.E.B. DuBois’ “double consciousness” and “The New Negro Movement.”
- The Black Power Mixtape Educators Guide (iTVS). Drawing on the film The Black Power Mixtape, this lesson plan for high schoolers explores the work of activist Angela Davis, and suggests ways to extend the discussion to the lives of other social justice activists.
- Shirley Chisholm: Unbought, Unbossed and Unforgotten (Anti-Defamation League). Though Congress remains predominantly white and male, the current legislative session is the most racially diverse in history. What better way to celebrate than by honoring the accomplishments of Shirley Chisolm, the first black woman elected to Congress?
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