It’s February—Black History Month.
The origins of Black History Month date back to 1926 when the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, as the group is known today, sponsored a week-long focus on the contributions of African Americans to U.S. history. Interestingly, the week purposely coincided with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas. In 1976, this week expanded into Black History Month and achieved the status as a federally recognized celebration. Every year, the president designates a theme for Black History Month. President Obama designated this year’s theme as “Civil Rights in America.”
The Choices Program has compiled a list of selected resources for educators. These resources touch on a range of topics that certainly deserve year-round attention, not just during the month of February. I hope you find the list useful as your classrooms take a renewed interest in topics related to Black History Month or at a later point in time.
The Civil Rights Movement
Freedom Now: The Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi [Curriculum]
Today, we think of the key leaders, mass demonstrations, and watershed legislation that have become synonymous with the civl rights movement. Often forgotten are the everyday people who were on the frontlines of the fight for justice and equality, working for change in their home communities. Students read about the movement that developed in Mississippi, and the ways in which national and local forces interacted at the grass-roots level.
“Oral Histories: Students in the Civil Rights Movement” [Online Lesson]
Students hear stories from former civil rights activists about what motivated them to join the movement.
“Fifty Years after the March on Washington:
Students in the Civil Rights Movement” [Online Lesson]
Students listen to stories from former civil rights activists, analyze what motivated students to join the movement, what their experiences were like, and consider the relevance of this history today.
Video interviews with scholars and participants in the civil rights movement
The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History: “The Civil Rights Movement”
Includes primary source documents and multimedia accounts of the national civil rights movement. Click on the “Freedom Riders” tab under “Interactive Features” for an in-depth look at the Freedom Rides of the early 1960s.
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum: “Integrating Ole Miss”
Provides information and primary source documents related to the admission of James Meredith to the University of Mississippi in 1962.
The NAACP Interactive Historical Timeline
This timeline highlights key events of the NAACP’s history and includes photos, video archives, and film clips.
The Slave Trade
A Forgotten History: The Slave Trade and Slavery in New England [Curriculum]
Explores the nature of the triangular trade and the extent of slavery in New England. Using readings, primary sources, and simulations, students uncover the effects of the slave trade and slavery for Americans and explore how history, and the telling of history, affects us today.
“Slavery Connects the North and the South” [Online Lesson]
Students utilize primary source documents to reconstruct the route of an actual slave ship and explore different facets of the slave trade, such as social attitudes and financial dimensions.
Video interviews with scholars on the slave trade
The interactive Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database contains more than 34,000 individual slaving expeditions between 1514 and 1866.
A Library of Congress online exhibition with graphics, primary sources, and historical narrative.
Brown University’s Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice
The center’s website features a list of resources (links) to curricula and historical documents on topics including the slave trade and the emancipation proclamation.
The Haitian Revolution
The Haitian Revolution [Curriculum]
Through readings, maps, digital activities, and simulations, students consider the development of the American colonial world and the legacies of the only successful slave revolt in the history of the world.
“The Haitian Revolution Today” [Online Lesson]
Students use art, music, and literature to consider how Haitians today think about the Revolution.
Video interviews with scholars on the Haitian revolution
The John Carter Brown Library: “Remember Haiti”
A selection of primary documents organized thematically.
1890s: The United States Enters the Age of Imperialism
“African-American-Community-Age-of-Imperialism“ [PDF Lesson]
Students analyze attitudes of the African-American community towards the Spanish-American War through excerpts from black-owned newspapers. The lesson is part of the curriculum unit Beyond Manifest Destiny: America Enters the Age of Imperialism.
National Endowment for the Humanities: “The Birth of an American Empire”
A set of four lessons that provide guiding questions, background information, preparation instructions, and lesson activities.
Other Resources for Black History Month
“African American History Month”
A (fantastic!) collection of resources from the Library of Congress, National Archives, and other organizations. Be sure to click on all of the main tabs, e.g. “Exhibits and Collections,” “For Teachers,” and “Audio/Video.”
National Endowment for the Humanities: History and Social Studies Curricula
These resources are not specifically tailored for Black History Month, but the extensive list of curricula can be searched by selecting subtopics such as “African American,” “Slavery,” and “Civil Rights.”
The History Channel: “Black History Timeline”
This timeline, ranging from 1619 to 2009, provides useful, succinct descriptions of key milestones.
Scholastic: “The Spirit of Service—Student Art Contest”
Challenge your students to participate in this art contest by creating a poster that commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington. Open to K-12.
National Geographic: “Black History Month”
Features a collection of resources ranging from maps on the underground railroad to an interactive summary of the history of jazz.