Magazine article Curriculum Review

Teaching Black History Month: Great Ideas from Teaching Tolerance

Magazine article Curriculum Review

Teaching Black History Month: Great Ideas from Teaching Tolerance

Article excerpt

Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, is a great resource for teachers of all grades and disciplines. There are hundreds of free lesson plans available, a few of which are highlighted here. Check out for more information.

An American Timeline

This lesson, created by Teaching Tolerance, relies on a PDF timeline of Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement. You can find this timeline at

FOCUS: In 1956. at the 47th annual convention of the NAACP in San Francisco, CA, Dr. King told his audience, "We can't afford to slow up ... we must keep moving ... we must keep going."

Seven years later Dr. King delivered his famous speech. "I Have a Dream," at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., and stated, "Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning."

This speech is credited with mobilizing supporters of desegregation and prompting the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Use it as a catalyst to mobilize students in expanding our timeline through their own research and activities.

Make a card game. Break students into diverse groups of four to six. Ask each group to select five entries from the timeline and create illustrations for those entries on index cards. Gather the students' cards, and distribute a different set to each group, making sure the cards are delivered in non-chronological sequence. Referencing the timeline, students should try to match the illustrations with events and put them in chronological sequence. Ask each group to share the stories portrayed by the illustrations, highlighting ways the events build on one another.

Create an annotated timeline. Break students into small groups, assigning each group specific entries from the timeline. Using library resources and the Internet, ask groups to locate eyewitness accounts, letters, diaries, artifacts, photos, magazine articles and/or newspaper accounts about each decade's entries. Depending on school resources, groups can create multimedia presentations based on their findings, or use butcher paper or poster board to create visual displays. Post student findings on the school or classroom website, or as a display that others can study.

Test your textbook. Ask students to compare the timeline to their U.S. history textbook:

* Are the entries reflected in the textbook? If not, what is your textbook's focus for the years 1954-1968? How might that focus relate to, or draw attention away from, the struggle for civil rights?

* Does your textbook include events in the civil rights struggle not included on Teaching Tolerance's timeline? Describe them.

The textbook publisher made conscious decisions about what to include and exclude from your textbook. In making those selections, what messages does the publisher send about the importance of knowing civil rights history?

Discuss the groups' findings as a class. As a follow-up activity, students can write letters to the textbook publisher or to the district or state office responsible for textbook selection.

Speak up. The timeline references several of Dr. King's speeches. Most are available online for free through the King Papers Project ( Ask students to select excerpts from King's speeches, and use them as models for constructing "mini-speeches" about contemporary racism and injustice. Encourage students to deliver their speeches to peers in class or as part of a school assembly.

Recognize the Continued Importance of Supporting Unity between Races

In 1998, the biracial Community Affairs Committee launched a project called the Birmingham Pledge. The Pledge is a grassroots effort created to recognize the dignity and worth of every individual, regardless of race, economic status or any other perceived difference. The Birmingham Pledge is as follows:

* I believe that every person has worth as an individual. …

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