Grades 3-12 10 Ways to Celebrate Black History
February is Black History Month. This annual observance actually dates back to the mid-1920s. Dr. Carter G. Woodson, an educator and historian, is credited as the "Father of Black History." He originally proposed the establishment of "Negro History Week" to honor and celebrate the contributions of Black Americans in the United States. Negro History Week was originally celebrated during the second week of February to coincide with Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln's birthdays. Both of these men greatly impacted Black Americans. Negro History Week then became Black History Week in the early 1970s. In 1976, in honor of the nation's bicentennial, the week was expanded to a month-long observance.
While the contributions of diverse populations should be celebrated throughout the year, consider using the following ideas as a way to focus your educational efforts on Black history this month:
1. Consider "Crowns." Within African American culture, many women wear beautiful hats to church. A book called Crowns: A Brief History of Church Hats offers photos of many of these hats that you can share with students, as well as information about hat etiquette, style and attitude. Consider inviting a local expert to talk about the importance of religion and spirituality in many Black Americans' lives. Have sample "crowns," too.
2. Tune in to Bright Ideas. Many black inventors developed important inventions that we still use today. For instance, George Washington Carver invented the crop rotation machine, Dr. Charles Drew is the father of the modern blood bank, Percy Julian invented fire-fighting foam and Garrett Morgan invented the traffic signal. Ask students to each research a black inventor so they can quickly present them to the class.
3. Celebrate Birthdays. February was chosen as Black History Month because the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln fall in this month. Have a birthday-cake for them and others (see box on page 9) while sharing a bit about each person.
4. Take "Word Breaks." Post a Langston I lughes poem on the board to show the power of his words. Encourage willing volunteers to read some Maya Angelou out loud so you can listen to the melody in her words. Nikki Giovanni, Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, bell hooks, Cornell West. …