Celebrate Black History Month with your students all February long with these original classroom exercises for all levels from Britannica curriculum specialists.
In the following three activities we utilize Britannica LaunchPacks: Social Studies. Don’t have access? Start a free trial now and explore 1,600 curriculum-relevant subject Packs that include grouped and organized resources, informational text, media, timelines, maps, and primary sources. Give it a try, or use these activities, prompts, and the graphic organizers with your own classroom resources!
Black History Month began in 1976, but its inspiration dates back to 1926 when Carter G. Woodson and members of his Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History) organized an African American History Week. They selected the month of February for its proximity to the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.
During the next 50 years, fed in large part by the civil rights moments, the single week grew into African American History Month. In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized the celebration.
ACTIVITY 1: Perfect Pairings — Elementary and Middle
Create a “Perfect Pairing” of fiction and nonfiction text around Black History Month.
Giving students the opportunity to read engaging historical fiction connects them to the time period, history, and issues under consideration. Pairing fiction with nonfiction ensures that students get the background information they need to read closely and think critically about fiction.
Grades 2-5: Pair one of the following books with the Human Rights: Civil Rights LaunchPack
- Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles
- Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-Ins by Carole Boston Weatherford
- One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
Grades 6-8: Pair one of the following books with The American Civil Rights Movement LaunchPack
- The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
- Revolution by Deborah Wiles
ACTIVITY 2: Figures in Importance — Elementary and Middle
Ask students to choose a key figure, either current or historical. Using one of the LaunchPacks below to research the figure, they can complete the graphic organizer to build a picture of their figure.
Each puzzle piece can represent a unique source and students can explore how different types of content, such as images, videos, articles, and primary sources, add important pieces to the figure’s story. Then, students might create a social-media style profile that their figure would have used to speak to the world about their big ideas or contributions if they were able to today.
Graphic Organizer: Jigsaw Puzzle
- Grades K-2: Jackie Robinson
- Grades 3-5: Sojourner Truth and George Washington Carver
- Grades 6-8: Frederick Douglass
- Grades 9-12: Harriet Tubman
ACTIVITY 3: Building Civic Engagement — High School
Ask students to research a key movement, such as Abolitionism, Voting Rights, or Civil Rights and then to consider the world around them today. What cause would they champion in their community, state, or county? How would they go about spreading their message? Have students design a flyer or poster that they could use to promote their cause.
- Human Rights: Civil Rights
- The American Civil Rights Movement
- The Abolitionist Movement
- The Women’s Suffrage Movement
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