Lesson Collection: Teaching Black History

January 26, 2022

In honor of Black History Month, consider these lessons on everything from the story of Black farmers to the history of voter suppression.

The true story of Black people in the United States must be integrated into the curriculum throughout the year. But Black History Month offers an annual reminder to lift up and share stories that have been suppressed or ignored, and to challenge mythologies and false narratives that are embedded in the long dominate accounts of U.S. history.

It's an active and ongoing process that includes using events in the news - like current battles over voter suppression - as relevant teachable moments on honest history. 

Here are some TeachableMoment lessons to consider this month, or any month. 

Learning history
 

  • Do All Farmers Matter?
    Amid a controversy over a plan to provide debt relief to Black farmers, students dig deeply into history to grapple with the question, “Do all farmers matter?” 
     

  • Banning Beloved: Censoring Toni Morrison’s Acclaimed Books
    Students learn about the life and legacy of Toni Morrison and discuss how her 1987 book Beloved is both frequently taught and frequently subject to calls for censorship. 
     

  • Who Does the Land Belong To?
    The question “who owns the land?” underlies many conflicts. Students explore issues surrounding land, place, and belonging – especially as they affect Native Americans and African Americans.
     

  • Does the U.S. Need a Truth & Reconciliation Commission?
    In this two-part lesson, teachers and students explore the concept of Truth and Reconciliation Commissions as a way for nations and communities to begin dialogues and chart a path to justice.
     

  • Celebrating Ella Baker and Her “Group-Centered Leadership” 
    Ella Baker, who helped build many of the most important organizations of the civil rights movement, defied traditional gender roles. She deprioritized charismatic leadership from above and instead empowered people to take charge of their own struggles for freedom. 
     
  • Juneteenth: Why is it Important to America?
    Congress has passed and President Biden has signed a new law making Juneteenth a federal holiday. Students learn about and discuss Juneteenth.
     
  • Partisan Redistricting: How Do I Make My Vote Count? 
    Students engage in inquiry to uncover the history of redistricting and gerrymandering and discuss the provisions of H.R.1, which proposes an end to partisan redistricting. 
     

  • This Year, Try Centering Blackness. Centering diverse cultures can strengthen community and sense of belonging for everyone, writes Morningside Center staff developer Nicole Lavonne Smith
     

  • Black History Month: How Do We Change History? Students explore the origins of Black History Month and consider where we stand today in creating a more inclusionary history in classrooms across the country.   
     
  • Decades of Organizing: Georgia Elects its First Black Senator. The election of Raphael Warnock to be Georgia's first Black senator was the result of decades of organizing by voting rights activists. Students discuss that history and the news.
     
  • Dreaming Big: Kamala Harris & Us. Students (grades 3-6) find out about Kamala Harris's background and her election as vice president - and reflect on their own dreams for the future. Also see our MS/HS lesson.
     
  • Dr. King and the Ongoing Fight for Economic Justice. Students watch videos with Martin Luther King III and Rev. William Barber, co-founder of today’s Poor People’s Campaign, and discuss the continuing fight for economic and racial justice.
     
  • A Gathering to Honor the Life and Legacy of John Lewis. Students deepen their knowledge of the civil rights icon and listen to and share their thoughts and reflections.
     
  • Black History Month & the Danger of a Single Story Students explore why it is important for people to be able to tell their own stories and relate that to Black History Month.  
     
  • Civil Rights History & Mythology. Did the Civil Rights Movement only involve the South? Was it the product of a few great leaders? In this lesson, students deepen their understanding of the civil rights movement, explore some mythologies surrounding it, and consider how sometimes "history" distorts the truth.   
     
  • A Reading List on Race. Black History Month was our excuse for asking our co-worker Daniel Coles, who is coordinating Morningside Center’s racial equity initiatives, to share some books he recommends to educators to raise our awareness on issues related to race.  Behold the list below, in alphabetical order by author.