In 1926, Black historian Carter G. Woodson created the forerunner to Black History Month, Negro History Week.
Since then, the recognition of Black history as integral to American history has grown tremendously. At the same time, old habits and old-fashioned curricula die hard, keeping Black History Month a relevant necessity.
The following are some of the best lessons and activities for teaching Black history. Be sure to start with No. 1, “Do’s and Don’ts of Teaching Black History.” Here teachers can learn ways to integrate Black history into the American History curriculum—where it belongs—all year long.
Best Black History Month Lessons and Activities
Do’s and Don’ts of Teaching Black History
Black history should be part of the curriculum all year long. Learn how to integrate Black history into your history and social studies curricula year round.
Teaching Hard History
A guide to teaching students of all levels in an age-appropriate way about the difficult topic of the slave trade and its role in American history. Organized around key concepts and essential knowledge, the guide includes primary texts, videos, and a professional development webinar.
Black Athletes and Civil Rights: 6 Upstanders to Introduce to Your Students
Black athletes have been in the forefront of the struggle for civil rights for more than a century. Have your students read about Black athletes from history who took a stand and then compare them to modern-day activist athletes. How have the issues changed? How have they remained the same?
Poets.org Lesson Plans for Black History Month
A truly wonderful selection of poetry from Gwendolyn Brooks, Langston Hughes, Marilyn Nelson, Nikki Giovanni, and other great African-American poets. Featured poems are supported by classroom activities, related artwork and audio.
Lesson of the Day: When Blackness Is a Superpower
Who doesn’t love a superhero? A wonderfully creative way to merge writing, art, and social studies, this lesson is natural for kids and anyone who likes mythology.
31 Highly Influential African-American Scientists
Go beyond the oft-cited George Washington Carver to learn about many other African-American scientists, past and present, whose work has been instrumental in the making of the modern world.
Negro Leagues Baseball Museum: 22 Stories about the Negro Leagues
These 22 compelling video stories about the Negro Leagues—spotlighting not only the players, but also the business behind the game—offer a great opportunity for students to understand the critical role Blacks played in the rise of our national pastime.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum: Oh Freedom! Teaching Art and the Civil Rights Movement
Teach Civil Rights by exploring artwork from the collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture. Search by artwork [https://americanart.si.edu/education/oh-freedom/art] or artist [https://americanart.si.edu/education/oh-freedom/artists].
How is jazz music reflective of the Harlem Renaissance?
A complete standards-aligned lesson that includes audio clips from Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, and Bessie Smith, a slideshow of iconic Harlem nightclubs and links to interactive resources. Copy the entire lesson to your Google Drive or print out a Word document.
Jazz Music, Dance, and Poetry
In this lesson for grades 3-5, students will explore jazz music and dance, then write a jazz-inspired cinquain poem. Exploring the intersection of Black history, music history, and dance history, the standards-aligned instruction is printable and integrated with Google Drive.
Gameplay: Notable African Americans from the 18th-century to the present
A Jeopardy-type quiz game that asks players questions about notable Black Americans in the arts, sciences, politics, cinema, and television. Questions range in difficulty from the $100-level to the $500 level. A great way for kids to show their knowledge while having fun.
Who Is Claudette Colvin?
“It felt like Sojourner Truth was on one side pushing me down, and Harriet Tubman was on the other side of me pushing me down. I couldn’t get up,” said the remarkable 15-year old Claudette Colvin, who was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, months before the famous incident with Rosa Parks. Learn about Colvin’s activism and why her story isn’t widely known today. This standards-aligned history lesson includes an immersive reader with narration.
National Civil Rights Museum Before the Boycott
What happened to cause the Montgomery bus boycott? This interactive puts students in the role of journalists who investigate the events leading up to the first large-scale demonstration against segregation.
iCivics Black History Month
Six brief videos from the highly respected iCivics organization are accompanied by standards-aligned lesson plans, including fillable PDFs for digital learning. The lessons illuminate not only the best-known activists, but also lesser-known pioneers, such as Constance Baker Motley, the first African-American woman to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Other topics include the Jim Crow era and the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School.
The Poet’s Voice: Langston Hughes and You
What is meant by the poet’s voice, and why do we like one voice better than another? Can anyone who writes develop a voice? Students will explore the qualities that make up the poetic voice of Langston Hughes as well as general aspects of poetic voice. This comprehensive lesson includes guiding questions, teacher preparation, seven activities for students, and lesson extensions.
Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series: Removing the Mask
In this complete lesson that integrates painting and poetry, students compare and contrast Jacob Lawrence’s artwork with poetry by Helene Johnson and Paul Laurence Dunbar. Provided are detailed background and context, five activities, assessments, and lesson extensions.
The Birth of Hip Hop
When was hip hop invented? Hip hop is a relatively new form of American music, but its roots extend all the way to 1973. This fascinating and lively video explains the origins of hip hop and how it spread to the larger society.
Tulsa: The Fire and the Forgotten
What was Tulsa’s Greenwood district and what happened to it in 1921? This multimedia lesson offers plenty of background resources to help teachers address a challenging topic, as well as printables for students. Shareable to Google Classroom.
Rosa Parks’ Biography
This is one civil rights story that we all know, isn’t it? Well, not really. The story of Rosa Parks isn’t only that one celebrated act of defiance on the bus. What many Americans don’t realize is that Parks’ civil rights activism extended throughout her life, across decades and cities. This authoritative and comprehensive examination of the life and activism of Rosa Parks reveals the depth of her commitment and contributions. Included is an interactive timeline, teaching guides, and exercises. Ideal for students grade 10-post secondary.
The Teacher Who Desgregated New York Transit
Everyone knows Rosa Parks. But do you know the story of Elizabeth Jennings? This in-depth excerpt from America’s First Freedom Rider: Elizabeth Jennings, Chester A. Arthur, and the Early Fight for Civil Rights is a fascinating look at a little-known but important civil rights episode that occurred not in the deep South, but in New York City. Have your students read the story, then compare it to the better-known Rosa Parks civil disobedience.
Bay Area Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement: Civil Rights Movement Archive
An extensive archive of photos, documents, letters, articles, speeches, poetry, and more related to the 1950s-60s Civil Rights movement. Check out the Teacher Resources, which provide lessons, activities, and a how-to for connecting students virtually with freedom movement veterans.
Library of Congress: Freed People Tell Their Stories
What was slavery really like? Go beyond the written documents and listen to the voices of people who survived it. This remarkable set of interviews with people who were once enslaved was recorded between 1932 and 1975, in nine states. The original recordings are accompanied by transcripts for careful study.
The National Archives Educator Resources: The Slave Trade
Resources for educators to investigate the slave trade in American history, including primary source documents, teaching activities, and document analysis worksheets.