6 Ways to Teach Black History All Year Round
When Matthew Patterson taught Beyoncé’s Lemonade to his high schoolers, he wasn’t “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 resources for giving kids 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.
- Exploring Fannie Lou Hamer (PBS LearningMedia). This photo-centric teaching guide draws on a collection of primary source materials to explore the life of 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, the guides 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.
- 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?
- Honoring Black History Through Curriculum and Brave Conversations (UnBoundEd). Whether you’re interested in teaching second graders about civil rights greats like Rosa Parks and Jackie Robinson, studying the Little Rock Nine with your middle schoolers, or reading The New Jim Crow with high school seniors, UnboundED’s collection of EngageNY curriculum has a wealth of rigorous and relevant lesson plans for all grade-levels.
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