Black History Month

  • For Educators
march
15th Amendment

The 15th Amendment, ratified on February 3, 1870, declared that the "right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."

Abernathy, Martin and Loretta King and Marchers for the Right to Vote

Courtesy of the Abernathy Family

Civil Rights Movement Co-Founder Dr. Ralph David Abernathy and his wife Mrs. Juanita Abernathy follow with Dr. and Mrs. Martin Luther King, Jr. as the Abernathy children march on the front line, leading the Selma to Montgomery march in 1965.

Depiction of the first vote for African Americans in Virginia

Library of Congress

In 1867, freedmen registered to vote in Virginia. Artist Alfred Rudolph Waud depicted "The First Vote" of African Americans in Virginia in the November 16, 1867 issue of Harper's Weekly magazine.

African American children encouraging people to register to vote

Kheel Center, Cornell University / CC BY 2.0

A large group of African American children gather around a sign encouraging people to register to vote.

Demonstrators protest against civil rights abuses against African Americans and other disenfranchised groups

Library of Congress

During the March on Washington, the National Council of Churches and thousands of other demonstrators protest against employment discrimination and civil rights abuses against African Americans and other disenfranchised groups, August 28, 1963.

Demonstrators with signs march for voting rights, jobs, an end to police brutality at the March on Washington, 1963

Library of Congress

Demonstrators march for voting rights, jobs, an end to police brutality and other injustices against African Americans and other disenfranchised groups during the March on Washington, August 28, 1963.

February as Black History Month

Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month, which is an annual celebration of achievements by Black Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of African Americans in U.S. history. Black History Month grew out of “Negro History Week,” the brainchild of historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African American people.

Black History Month 2021 Theme, "The Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity"

The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) determines the theme each year for Black History Month. They explain, "The black family has been a topic of study in many disciplines—history, literature, the visual arts and film studies, sociology, anthropology, and social policy. Its representation, identity, and diversity have been reverenced, stereotyped, and vilified from the days of slavery to our own time. The black family knows no single location, since family reunions and genetic-ancestry searches testify to the spread of family members across states, nations, and continents." 

Teaching Black History

In schools and classrooms, Black History Month is an excellent time to explore the Black experience—including the history and culture of African-American people, the injustice faced by them and how that injustice has been and continues to be confronted and overcome. As with other similarly themed months, it is important not to isolate black history and culture into one month during the year. Black history is American history and should be integrated into the curriculum throughout the school year.

This month we feature our teaching guide 10 Ideas for Teaching Black History Month as well as additional K-12 curriculum and other resources to bring the themes of Black History Month to your classroom during February and throughout the year.

Curriculum Resources: Historical

Curriculum Resources: Current Issues

Curriculum Resources: Race and Racism

Children and Young Adult Literature with Educator and Parent Discussion Guides

The Undefeated

This book/poem is a love letter to Black life in the United States. It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world's greatest heroes.

Sulwe

Sulwe is darker than everyone in her family and wishes she was “beautiful and bright” like her sister and mother. This picture book creates a whimsical and poignant story to inspire children to see their own unique beauty.

New Kid

Instead of sending Jordan Banks to the art school of his dreams, his parents enroll him in a prestigious private school known for its academics, where Jordan is one of the few kids of color in his entire grade. Jordan soon finds himself torn between two worlds—and not really fitting into either one.

Hurricane Child

Being born during a hurricane is unlucky, and twelve-year-old Caroline, who lives on Water Island in the U.S. Virgin Islands, has had her share of bad luck lately. But when a new student arrives, Caroline believes her luck is turning around. 

Firebird

In her debut picture book, Misty Copeland tells the story of a young girl whose confidence is fragile and who is questioning her own ability to reach the heights that Misty has reached.

March: Book One

Book One of this graphic novel trilogy spans Congressman John Lewis' youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, building to a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall.

Teaching Tools