A Brief Overview of Black History Month
Black History Month officially began in 1976, when President Gerald R. Ford asked Americans to "seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history." Every year since then, every American president has dedicated February as African American History Month.
The first celebration of African American contributions to the United States was established by the historian Carter G. Woodson. The event was held in February 1926 and was called Negro History Week. The week in February included the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809) and Frederick Douglass (born in February 1818). Over the years, more Americans, black and white, joined the celebrations each February. In the 1960s, the civil rights movement further emphasized the impact of African Americans in American culture and throughout United States history.
Bring the celebration of Black History Month into your classroom with these activities, lesson plans, book resources, and interactive histories.
Integrating African-American Culture & History into Your Curriculum
By Phil Nast, retired middle school teacher and freelance writer
Found In: language arts, social studies, 6-8
To help you integrate Black History Month into your classroom, we offer a selection of lesson plans that cover a variety subjects and that can be adapted to fit grades 6-8.
Lesson Plans & Activities
African American Scientists and Inventors
Students in grades K-12 learn about and celebrate the contributions of African American scientists using a link from this page to The Faces of Science: African Americans in the Sciences.
In Motion: The African American Migration Experience
Students in grades 6-8 participate in lessons and activities organized around thirteen defining migrations that have formed and transformed African America and the nation.
Jacob Lawrence's Migration Series: Removing the Mask
Students in grades 6-8 analyze and compare visual and poetic works by Jacob Lawrence, Helene Johnson, and Paul Laurence Dunbar and consider how they represent changing roles of African Americans.
The Poet’s Voice: Langston Hughes and You
Students in grades 6-8 investigate “voice” in Hughes’s poetry, develop their own distinctive voices in journal entries, and write an original poem or critical essay on an aspect of Hughes’s poetic voice.
The Illusion of Race
Students in grades 6-8 investigate both genetic and societal consequences of the often-artificial and evolving classifications of race and ethnicity. Student and teacher materials are included.
Smithsonian Jazz Mixer
Students in grades K-12 can explore a jazz timeline, world map, and a virtual mixer that lets them listen and observe the elements of jazz.
Notable African Americans from the 18th-century to the present
In this Jeopardy-type quiz game students in grades 5-12 can choose from three levels of difficulty to test their knowledge of famous African Americans. Spelling counts, for example Billy Holiday rather than Billie Holiday would be marked incorrect.
The Underground Railroad: Journey to Freedom
To play, install free software. Play as a slave escaping from a Maryland tobacco plantation.
African American History Month Exhibits & Collections
Resources covering art and design, baseball, civil rights, culture, folklife, military, music and performing arts, religion, slavery, and resource guides.
EDSITEment's Guide to Black History Month Teaching Resources
Investigate the contributions African Americans have made in the history and cultural development of the United States.
W. E. B. Du Bois: Online Resources
Includes digital materials related to W. E .B. Du Bois and links to external Web sites.
The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow
Stories, interactive maps, activities and tools, and lesson plans and activities for grades 6-12.
Black Labor History
Lessons and links on the life histories of people whose struggle was part of a larger social and economic movement to improve the lives of the working class.
Separate Is Not Equal - Brown v. Board of Education
History, images, and other resources covering the historic Supreme Court ruling ending segregation and ensuring opportunity in education.
Africans in America
Images, documents, stories, biographies, and commentaries. The site provides teacher’s and youth guides. The four part series may be in local libraries.
Black History - Biography - Celebrate Black History Month & People
Biographies, timelines, photos, video, game, quiz, and 101 fast facts.
Poems to Celebrate Black History Month
Poems and articles by African-Americans.
Jazz: A Film by Ken Burns
Online activities and biographies, transcripts of many interviews with musicians, K-12 lesson plans, and a music study guide for grades 5-8.
Jazz in Time
Students in grades 5-12 can read this interactive timeline about the development of jazz (about 30 minutes) and listen to imbedded audio clips.
The History of Hip-Hop
A collection of interviews from National Public Radio (NPR) that chronicle the seminal people and events in the hip-hop movement.
African American Visual Art and the Black Arts Movement
The Black Arts Movement (BAM) began in the mid-1960s to provide a new vision of African Americans. This site provides images galleries a theoretical essay, timeline, and links to other online art sources. Note: the top banner links are dead but the bottom links are functional.
A brief look at the life and work of Gordon Parks, novelist poet, painter, composer, pianist, and photographer. The site includes a brief biography, image gallery, and interview video clips.
The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed
African American History by region.
African Americans in Science and Technology
Links from the Library of Congress.
African American Inventors
Brief biographies of African American inventors.
Negro Leagues Baseball Museum: Electronic Resources for Teachers
Before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball there was Negro League Baseball. This site features history, a timeline, photos, and teacher resources, including lessons for grades 9-12.
African American Athletes
Brief biographies and film clips of outstanding African American athletes. Don’t miss the links to legal and political figures, scientists and educators, activists, artists and writers, entertainers, and musicians and singers.
Audio & Video
Science Update: Spotlight on African-American Scientists
Students in grades 6-12 can listen to interviews with a select group of black scientists working in North America today.
Blues Journey (23:17 minutes)
This four part audio series explores the history of the blues.
Legacy: Black and White in America
Compares African-American life today and that of the Civil Rights generation.
Faubourg Tremé: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans (68 minutes)
Considered the oldest black neighborhood in America, Faubourg Tremé is the origin of the southern civil rights movement and the birthplace of jazz. Check local listings to see when it airs on a local PBS station.
Forgotten Genius (120 minutes)
Chemist Percy Lavon Julian struggled against racism as he pursued research with steroids and alkaloids and helped to create affordable and effective treatments for rheumatoid arthritis and glaucoma. A teacher’s guide has student activities. (The program is in 13 chapters and can be watched online.)
African American Lives 2 (240 minutes)
This website for features clips from the series, background on the research, scholarship, and science, and resources for people to trace their own family history. Lessons for grades 6-12 are included. The DVD may be available in local libraries.
Cora Unashamed (93 minutes)
Based on Langston Hughes’ story, this film tells of a Depression-era African-American domestic who lives only for her daughter and the neglected child of her employers. The DVD may be found in local libraries.
last updated: January 3, 2018