Black History Month started in 1926 as Negro History Week, started by historian and writer Carter G. Woodson. Today in the United States and Canada Black History month is celebrated in February. Black History Month celebrates the important African-American leaders and historical figures in the abolition of slavery and the 20th century's civil rights movement. Schoolkids across North America learn of historic happenings and important people throughout the month.
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Many cities in the United States have African-American museums. Other museums have dedicated areas set aside for African-American history, or sponsor special Black History Month exhibits. Consider taking kids on a school-organised field trip or a family excursion to a museum. Kids can attend an exhibit or specific event, and teachers or parents can later use the opportunity to discuss with the kids what they learnt from the trip. The Association of African American Museums offers some online resources for travelling exhibits.
Choose one or two African-American figures from history, or allow students to choose one of their own from the long list of people celebrated during Black History Month. Have the students, depending on their age, do reports on the figure. For younger kids, choose a figure like Martin Luther King. There are many documentary presentations available for school-age kids on Dr. King. Afterward, discuss Dr. King with the kids to reinforce what they watched. For younger children, Dr. King is an especially good start since they get a day off from school to commemorate his birth and are likely to recognise his name.
There are a variety of worksheets available for teachers on the topic of Black History Month. You can download or buy them from a teacher's supply store, or make up your own based on your own experience and lesson plan. Word scrambles, vocabulary fill-in-the-blank sheets, alphabetical-order sheets, crossword puzzles, word jumbles and word seeks are great exercises for kids to help them retain what they learn. For younger children, there are worksheets for colouring in images from important milestones in the history of African-Americans.
The way things have changed within the educational system is an interesting way to view the history of African-Americans. For schoolkids, learning about education fits directly into their own world and experience. In 1837, the Institute for Colored Youth was founded by Richard Humphreys in Circle, Pennsylvania, outside Philadelphia. This later became Cheyney University. Beginning there, challenge your kids to learn what that first school would have been like in comparison with the American population as a whole. Then trace the evolution of education up to the present time.
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