Make Smart Classroom Moves This Black History Month

Curriculum Review, February 2015 | Go to article overview

Make Smart Classroom Moves This Black History Month


A History of Honoring Black Americans

This annual observance dates back to the mid-1920s when Dr. Carter G. Woodson, an educator and historian credited as the "Father of Black History," proposed the establishment of "Negro History Week." Wanting to honor and celebrate the contributions of black Americans in the United States, Woodson suggested Negro History Week to be celebrated during the second week of February, to coincide with Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass' birthdays. In their differing and unique ways, these men were both profoundly important to the movements advancing blacks in America.

In the early 1970s, Negro History Week evolved into Black History Week. In honor of the nation's bicentennial in 1976, the week was then expanded to a month-long observance, which we mark each February.

Celebrating Black History in the Classroom

Here are some ways you can recognize this month with students and others in the community ...

1. Tune in to Bright Ideas. Many black inventors are behind important inventions that remain part of our daily lives in 2015. 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 laid key foundations for important strides in hormone research; and Garrett Morgan invented the traffic signal, among other useful devices. Have students research a black inventor and present their findings to the class.

2. Explore Literary Contributions. Post a Langston Hughes poem on the board to show the power of his words. Encour--age willing volunteers to read some Maya Angelou out loud so students can hear the melody in her words. Nikki Giovanni, Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, bell hooks, Cornell West ... there are many writrers who could be included in these exercises. Black southern women writers, Harlem Renaissance writers, contemporary black male authors ... these are just a few categories to choose from.

3. Map It Out. Research important cities with historical significance in black history, like Montgomery, Alabama, where Rosa Parks' refusal to vacate her bus seat led to a year-long boycott, or the nation's capital, where Martin Luther King, Jr. …

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Make Smart Classroom Moves This Black History Month
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