February is Black History Month in the United States. Many people are familiar with the names Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, and others, but they do not know where to look for their stories and the stories that we haven’t heard. Dozens of Black inventors have reshaped human history with their products that we couldn’t do without. The cotton gin by Eli Whitney is but one of those fantastic inventions. Parents often want to talk to their children about important moments in history but do not know how or where to find excellent resources. The following are just a few resources that you may use to promote Black History Month at home.
Your Local Library
One of the best places to start looking for information on Black History Month is your local library. If you aren’t sure which library you should be using, the Oregon Library Directory Map can point you in the right direction. Libraries often have programs for Black History Month already planned. Your family can participate in these events to learn more. Most libraries are not offering in-person events currently, but dozens of online events are planned around the state. Check out neighboring libraries, too. They will often allow users from neighboring areas to attend events and get a library card.
African American Read-In
Each February, the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) promotes the National African American Read-in. These events are often held through local libraries or schools, but there is no reason you cannot hold one at your home. Read Write Think has a resource page designed to get you started. The objective is to spend February reading African American authors and about the lives of prominent African Americans. Historical events, biographies, fiction, poetry, and much more can be enjoyed from the comfort of your home.
Personally, I am doing my own private African American Read-In. I listen to audiobooks and read ebooks as frequently as possible. My selections this month are all African American authors or subjects. Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy, and James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time have all been selections for the month. Your children may not like these titles as they are for older audiences, but there are plenty of stories and biographies of other leaders designed for each age group. My goal is to complete ten titles by the end of the month. I listen to one book in the car and read another at home. Set similar goals at your house.
Georgia Public Broadcasting
This public broadcasting company has some fantastic resources for Black History at home. While events are inconvenient from Oregon right now, the video and reading resources are phenomenal. Join virtual learning journeys, facts about Black History, and even the history of hip-hop through their programming. These resources often extend beyond the broadcasting channel and use National Geographic and other major media to tell the stories.
Check Out Your Local PBS Station
Georgia Public Broadcasting has a great page dedicated to resources, but your own PBS station may also have phenomenal programming this month. National programs like the Uncovering America series on the Civil Rights Movement are moving to watch. The Oregon Public Broadcasting website highlights Black Pioneers, and a quick search of the site shows dozens of useful stories and clips for telling the Black experience in America.
TED Talks and videos from the TED site can be beneficial, especially for older children. They can see the adult perspective on racism, race relations, and Black voices. There are dozens of videos that bring history to the present through these amazing talks. Sit down with your children and watch a few. Preview them first to ensure that your child can handle the content.
Southern Poverty Law Center
The Southern Poverty Law Center works tirelessly in the fight for racial equality and justice. Their project Learning for Justice is designed to help eliminate social and racial injustices. They have a specific resource called “The Do’s and Don’ts of Teaching Black History,” where they offer suggestions and resources that can tell a more balanced story. They encourage Black history to continue year-round, but February is a great place to start. They also urge parents and teachers to incorporate Black history into the regular lessons. When teaching geography, teach the marches. When teaching holidays, include Black holidays. This resource also provides sample lessons to use throughout your classroom or home.
Yes, much of this article has focused on reading and literacy, but most of what we learn is reading. Scholastic has some fantastic reading suggestions as well as links to other national sources. Art, literacy, and history are all included on this one webpage. You can watch linked videos or visit photo galleries showcasing story quilts. This resource should be bookmarked immediately.
Consider including some videos from the Biography Channel to enhance some of the reading. Dozens of videos on influential African Americans are located on this website. They have a section just for Black History Month, complete with both articles and videos. Celebrities and leaders of the past can all be found in one location. Expand your child’s understanding of sports by watching more than Kobe or Tiger’s stories. Learn about Jackie Robinson, Jackie Joiner-Kersey, or Wilma Rudolph.
There are thousands of resources available to parents and teachers seeking help with the Black History Month curriculum. Do not be afraid to move beyond what is comfortable and talk about racial inequalities, disparities, and challenges. Slavery is a part of history, and making it a minor focal point often loses its dehumanization of African American slaves. Have frank discussions about what was wrong with the practice and how it impacted American life. Don’t be afraid to be honest. If you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t be afraid to look it up, either. These resources should provide you with a fantastic place to start.