10 Resources for Educators* Looking to Incorporate Black History Into Their Classrooms All Year Long
By Lauren Lefty, PhD, ACLS Leading Edge Fellow, CDF Freedom Schools® program
*These resources can also be used by anyone looking to learn more about Black history, not just K-12 teachers!
The Children’s Defense Fund has always been rooted in the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement’s grassroots educational campaign. The story of Black Americans is, and continues to be, marked by a struggle against oppression, but it is also a story of creativity, liberation, and joy. Our young people have the power to move the story in new directions–if we empower them now. Below are some resources to help honor Black leaders and build up new ones.
This article introduces educators to some common pitfalls and opportunities during Black History Month. From ensuring Black history finds its way into the curriculum all year round to connecting historical topics to present-day issues, there are several ways to move beyond surface-level nods to this month-long celebration of Black life and history.
“The Genesis of Dr. Carter G. Woodson’s Negro History Week,” Google Black History Month Online Exhibit
Co-curated by Dr. Kimberly Pellum Brown, the National Postal Museum and The National Museum of American History, this interactive digital exhibit narrates the history and importance of Carter G. Woodson, whose work led to the creation of Black History month. Students can learn from narrative text as well as primary sources such as photographs, manuscripts, postage stamps, and letters.
The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture offers a wealth of resources to help educators approach history through an African American lens. Teachers can explore a variety of lesson plans and series such as Learning Labs, Learning Through Objects, Becoming a Historian, Read Between the Brushstrokes, STEM lessons, Early Childhood collections, professional development workshops, and more.
This collection of curricular resources from the New York City Department of Education encourages educators to move beyond framing Black history as solely a tale of pain and struggle to include stories of Black creativity, joy, and liberation. You’ll find incredible resources like the BlackPast Timelines, 1000 Black girl books, resources, and materials that focus on Afro-Latinx and global Black history.
The CDF Freedom Schools program is rooted in the legacy of 1964 Freedom Summer, when activists from the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) spearheaded a massive voter registration and grassroots educational campaign across the state of Mississippi. This digital history collection includes student-friendly narratives, biographies, oral histories, and primary sources that bring the story of SNCC, its courageous young activists, and the 1964 Freedom Schools to life.
The Zinn Education project aims to challenge misrepresentations and omissions in K-12 textbooks by centering the voices of everyday people fighting for justice. Their Teach the Black Freedom Struggle Campaign grew from the uprising for racial justice in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in 2020, attempting to address the needs of students and teachers in the midst of a global pandemic and rebellion in defense of Black Lives. The collection provides free, user-friendly lesson plans along with teacher study groups, a podcast, online classes for teachers, and more.
Teaching for Change carefully curated this collection of Black History books for children, young adults, and educators. You can easily browse by grade-level and explore the many titles that bring the Black past to life on the page. Many of these beloved titles also appear in the CDF Freedom Schools Integrated Reading Curriculum (IRC).
Black History isn’t just for the Social Studies or ELA classroom. STEM teachers can also pair science and math lessons with oral histories from Black leaders in the field. The ScienceMakers Digital Archive features the largest fully accessible archive of video recorded oral history interviews of 211 of the nation’s top African American scientists.
Nikole Hannah Jones’s Pulitzer-prize winning project aims to place the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the core of the national narrative. In collaboration with the Pulitzer Center, this curriculum aligns with Common Core standards and provides lesson plans and a variety of multimedia resources geared toward teachers and students.
History can sometimes feel abstract and distant, something that happened long ago and far away. Yet grounding national and global events in place—especially places that are familiar to our scholars—makes the content relatable. Local oral history collections, historical societies, and museums can support teachers in showing their students that history happens everywhere, including their own community. Here are a few examples: African American Voices, Fresno County Historical Society; Bronx African American History Project; and the Cascade Oral History Collection, Atlanta.