The struggles and successes of many African American personalities, from civil rights leaders to children’s authors, are rich fodder for classroom discussions and student research. Try these activities to inspire your students in the arts, sports, literacy, and more.
On the Block Romare Bearden was a prominent collage artist based in Harlem. Share images of his work with kids by
visiting the Romare Bearden Foundation website
, then click on
to explore ways to incorporate Bearden's work in your classroom. Begin by inviting small groups to make a collage of their neighborhood in the style of Bearden’s
The women of Gee's Bend, Alabama, created quilts that told stories. Read about them in Patricia McKissack's book
Stitchin' and Pullin'
and view photos from
. Then have students create quilted squares that, when put together, tell a classroom narrative. Read Meghan Everette's blog post
Celebrate Black History With Gee's Bend Quilts
Pay homage to great African American jazz musicians, such as Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, and Duke Ellington, by reading This Jazz Man by Karen Ehrhardt. Then listen to their music and have kids free-write phrases to describe how the music makes them feel. Type the words into
to make a colorful "word cloud" that represents jazz music.
Teach your class about the historical and cultural significance of the blues, which is steeped in slavery and work songs. Help your students brainstorm things that might give them "the blues." Teach your students about the 12-bar structure of the blues with the lesson plan from
The Blues Classroom from PBS
Schools of Many Colors
Learn about school desegregation by reading
The School Is Not White!
by Doreen Rappaport. Then share President John F. Kennedy’s quote, "When Americans are sent to Vietnam or West Berlin, we do not ask for whites only. It ought to be possible, therefore, for American students of any color to attend any public institution..." Discuss how this statement reflects what happened in the book.
Have students study an African American historical figure, then dress up as their subject, adding an identifying name tag. Invite visitors to your "wax museum" to press imaginary buttons and bring the statues to life!
Trip for Freedom
Stand Up for Rosa
Rosa Parks was tired of injustice the day she refused to give up her seat on the bus. Introduce her to students by reading
by Nikki Giovanni. Have students each write a poem celebrating the bravery in her action.
Slavery in New York
The South was not the only place that had a slave population. Slavery existed in the northern states, too. Visit the New York Historical Society's
"Slavery in New York" exhibit online
, which explores the vital role the slave trade played in making New York one of the wealthiest cities in the world. Have students discuss what New York might be like today without this history.
Nikki Grimes authored
Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope
prior to President Obama's November 2008 election. Discuss the concept of hope, which is a central theme of Grimes's book, with your class. Then have each child create a small hope box out of cardstock. Fill the boxes with hopeful messages and affirmations.
Wow your class with stats about
, the first American in Olympic track and field history to win four gold medals in a single Olympics. Have kids use math to determine how many meters per second he ran during his gold-medal races.
A Baseball Great
Read Myron Uhlberg's book
Dad, Jackie, and Me
, the story of a white man and his deaf father who vigorously supported Jackie Robinson in 1947 when he became the first African American baseball player in the major leagues. After reading the book and the author's note, discuss the ways in which Robinson and Uhlberg's father overcame prejudice to prove their abilities to others. Consider projecting the images from the end pages, which contain original newspaper clippings about Robinson.
North County Federation - Harmony Day
Harmony Day is celebrated annually on
in Australia. Harmony Day began in 1999, coinciding with the United Nations
International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
. Each year, it is marked by people coming together and participating in activities. On Friday, March 20, 2020 - let's do an activity within our schools to celebrate our harmony and unity. Share your ideas with your principals and take plenty of pictures. Invite parents and grandparents to participate.
1. Bring art and history together by recreating Civil Rights Freedom Movement posters.
2. Create a newsletter.
3. Create a Living Museum and invite your parents out.
4. Learn the art of “Stepping”. Stepping is synonymous with Black Greek Organizations.
5. Host a Black College Day.
6. Create a Culture of Encounter.
7. Let student tell their stories and ask them how they would like to be celebrated. Do something special each week.
8. Partner with a Black College Alumni organization and host a mentoring day for all students.
9. Have your students do research to create a Cultural Calendar. The Cultural Calendar should include all cultures.
10. Do research about Black History in Saint Louis, Missouri and the State of Missouri.