Tip of the Week: Black History Month 2015
Okay. I gotta be honest.
Much of what you are about to read is two years old. My thinking hasn’t changed much since February 2013 and well . . . I’m not sure I could write it a whole lot better anyway. So the message and much of the text is the same. The resources are updated.
To be honest, I’m a bit torn about the whole idea of Black History Month. The concept started 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 school year as part of social studies instruction. The hope was that Black History Month would provide a very intentional time for all of us to remember together the struggles of African Americans to obtain the basic civil rights afforded to others, the challenges African Americans have faced since 1526, and the contributions of African Americans to who we are.
But I’m torn.
The very articulate Jose 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 rules? Okay. Here’s the 2015 list:
(Realize that we shouldn’t completely ignore the significance of Black History month either. It’s a balancing act, I know. That’s why you get the big bucks. Here’s how one teacher solved the balancing act.)
Before you jump into this, read The Do’s and Don’ts of Teaching Black History, a good guide from Teaching Tolerance. They also have a nice set of teaching kits you can order for free, including this one about children and teens marching in Birmingham, Alabama and this one about the Selma to Montgomery march.
EDSITEment always has great stuff, no matter the topic. You’ll find tons of of lessons, resources, and teaching materials arranged by historical period.
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.
ArtsEdge has a very power set of resources about the African American experience through the arts.
Curriculet has a nice list of fiction / non-fiction texts for elementary, middle , and high school kids that’s perfect for integrating ELA skills into your instruction
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. And their National Museum of African American History and Culture is a no-brainer.
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!)
A collection of lesson plan sites:
- New York Times
- Education World
- The Lesson Plans Page
- Teacher Ideas: New York Times Learning Network
- National Education Association