Black History Month
February is Black History Month, a time when communities and schools give special attention to learning about the contributions and history of African Americans. We've gathered some great resources you can share with students in February — and throughout the year.
Find information about:
Writers, illustrators, and storytellers
Video interviews with children's book authors and illustrators
Watch Reading Rockets' interviews with celebrated African American children's book authors and illustrators, and children's literature historian, Leonard Marcus, who talks about the history of multicultural children's books in the U.S. from the 1960s onward.
Watch the full interviews with these award-winning authors and illustrators:
Celebrating Black History Month with Poetry
On her Poetry for Children website, Sylvia Vardell showcases wonderful poetry created by African American poets who write for young people, including Marilyn Nelson, Nikki Giovanni, Carole Boston Weatherford, Nikki Grimes, Ashley Bryan, Charles R. Smith, Jacqueline Woodson, Walter Dean Myers, Kwame Alexander, Eloise Greenfield, Maya Angelou, and others.
Black History Month from Poets.org
To celebrate Black History Month in February — and the rich tradition of African American poetry all year long — browse essays on literary milestones and movements, find important books on black history and poetics, look for lesson plans for Black History Month, read archival letters from classic African American poets, and search poems about the African American experience by both classic and contemporary poets.
Gwendolyn Brooks and "We Real Cool" (Poets.org)
The Pulitzer Prize winning-poet Gwendolyn Brooks wrote about African American life in the city. At this website you can listen as she reads her famous poem "We Real Cool."
A 'griot' is a storyteller in western Africa who keeps alive the oral tradition and history of a village or family. The StoryCorps Griot Project is a special initiative that is gathering and preserving the life stories of African American families.
Activities for the classroom, home, and the community
The National African American Read-In (NCTE)
The National Council of Teachers of English asks schools, churches, libraries, bookstores, community and professional organizations, and interested citizens to make literacy a significant part of Black History Month by hosting and coordinating Read-Ins in their communities.
Find more ideas for Read-In activities at ReadWriteThink.
Embracing Black History (PBS Parents)
Browse this collection of booklists and activities that celebrate culture and family and teach diversity — such as growing a family tree, planning a family reunion, or making African vegetable stew with Maya and Miguel.
Celebrate African American Heritage (Scholastic)
This website offers a comprehensive collection of classroom resources including lesson plans, book excerpts, author interviews, information about civil rights leaders, scientists, explorers, musicians, athletes, and little-known African Americans innovators and achievers.
Culture & Change: Black History in America (Scholastic)
Meet famous African Americans, listen to jazz music, publish your own writing, and explore history with the interactive timeline.
The Underground Railroad (National Geographic)
Take an interactive journey on the Underground Railroad and learn more about the "faces of freedom" — including Frederick Douglass and lesser-known activists like Jermain Loguen and William Still. This new site also includes a timeline, maps about the Underground Railroad, and more teaching resources.
Protecting Family History and Looking at Photographs (National Museum of African American History and Culture)
These lesson plans show kids how to protect family history and artifacts the way museums do and teach how to analyze and "read" photographs.
African American History Month for Teachers (Library of Congress)
Put the power of primary sources to work in the classroom. Browse ready-to-use lesson plans, student activities, collection guides, and research aids.
Library Activity Ideas (Programming Librarian)
Find out what libraries across the country are doing to celebrate African-American History Month. Check out these two display ideas: Who Am I? and They Made Their Stamp on History.
Rosa Parks Bus (Henry Ford Museum)
Learn more about Rosa Parks and her brave actions on December 1, 1955, the story behind the bus, and a chronology of the Civil Rights movement.
Stories to Tell: Curating an African-American History Exhibit (New York Times Learning Network)
Given that history is composed of many interwoven stories, how do curators and other historians decide which stories to tell? How can key historical events, people, places and themes best be represented in a meaningful, engaging exhibit to teach others? In this lesson, students consider the messages sent by artifacts and then develop an African-American history exhibit.
African-American Negro Baseball League
Are you a baseball fan? Visit the website for the African-American Negro Baseball League Museum to learn about the league's history, players, and teams.
Writing activities from Reading Rockets
Writing prompts inspired by James Ransome
Quilts are a recurring theme in Ransome's books, from a charming folk art ABCs (Quilt Alphabet) to the story of an African American girl's escape from slavery (Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt). Imagine a quilt that tells your family's story. What colors, patterns, and images would it have, and why? Ransome is also deeply interested in folktales, particularly African American stories and their origins in African storytelling traditions. In A Pride of African Tales, Ransome contributes richly colored watercolors to illustrate a classic trickster tale, cautionary tale, fable, pourquoi story, and more. Try writing your own pourquoi story, explaining to your friends how your animal got to be the way it is today. Let your imagination go wild!
Writing prompts inspired by Patricia and Fredrick McKissack
In their award-winning folktale collection, The Dark-Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural, McKissack's have written creepy ghost stories and legends to give you a chill. Dark-Thirty is that time just before dark, when it's neither day nor night and mystery lurks in the shadows. Write a story set at dark-thirty that will give us all a good scare.
Children can learn about family heritage at the same time they are improving their literacy skills. Using family-based writing projects, you can build a connection with parents, and help children see the value in their own heritage and in the diversity around them.
Literacy activities can take on a new meaning when students are reading and writing about their own community. Children learn the true value of print when they document the oral histories of the elders in their town.
People and events
Black History Month (Time for Kids)
Meet the black leaders who inspire some of today’s African American leaders, read an interview with one of the original Tuskegee Airmen (and learn about the movie Red Tails), discover African American inventors whose inventions are part of everyday life, and much more in this multimedia site.
Black History and the Postal Service (National Postal Museum)
Learn all about the black experience through the lens of American postage stamps. Find out about the 1940 Booker T. Washington stamp, the Negro Baseball League stamps, letter writing during the Great Migration, the history of African American postal workers, and more.
Famous African Americans
Find out more about African Americans who have changed history, achieved greatness, and made a significant mark on our culture, including Julian Bond, Medgar Evers, Mae Jemison, Lorraine Hansberry, Zora Neale Thurston, Mahalia Jackson, Spike Lee, Tyler Perry, Mos Def, Serena Williams, Muhammad Ali, and many others.
Meet Amazing Americans (Library of Congress)
A great introduction to famous Americans, this website offers energetically written stories about Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. DuBois, and Duke Ellington among others.
Celebrate Black History Month (The History Channel)
This multimedia site includes a brief overview of the civil rights struggle, biographies of key players, and video clips of Martin Luther King, Jr., Muhammad Ali, and other famous Americans.
Online guides to African American history
African American History Resources (Library of Congress)
Celebrate the contributions of African Americans throughout U.S. history. Learn about Harriet Tubman, John Hope Franklin, the Tuskegee Airmen, African Americans in the military, African American band music and recordings, and the Emancipation Proclamation. Find a number of primary documents and resources for teachers.
African American Odyssey (Library of Congress)
This site showcases the African American collections of the Library of Congress. Displaying more than 240 items, including books, government documents, manuscripts, maps, musical scores, plays, films, and recordings, this is the largest black history exhibit ever held at the Library of Congress.
Guide to Black History (Encyclopedia Brittanica)
This site includes an extensive timeline, audio and video clips, and biographies.
PBS television programs
Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson
Jack Johnson — the first African-American Heavyweight Champion of the World, whose dominance over his white opponents spurred furious debates and race riots in the early 20th century — enters the ring once again in this PBS documentary by acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burns. The website includes a teacher's guide.
Slavery and the Making of America
The first slaves were bought in 1619, the last freed in 1865. In the intervening 250 years, slaves labored to make America what it is today. This television series was produced by WNET. The website includes a K-12 Learning section.
This program, part of the American Experience series on PBS, pushes past the myths that have obscured Martin Luther King's story to reclaim the history of a people's leader. Using the personal recollections, diaries, letters, and eyewitness accounts of friends, family, journalists, law enforcement officers and historians, this film brings fresh insights to King's difficult journey, his charismatic — if at times flawed — leadership, and his truly remarkable impact. The website includes a teacher's guide.
Eyes on the Prize
The landmark documentary series. Through contemporary interviews and historical footage, the series covers all of the major events of the civil rights movement from 1954 to 1985. On the extensive website you'll find a wealth of ideas for classroom activities at different grade levels.