history

062. Teach Black History All Year Long

Teach Black History All Year Long

It’s Black History Month! We love seeing the uplifting celebrations across the country, in our own community, and on our social media feeds. In today’s episode, we want to take it further. Black history is not just a chapter in our collective narrative; it is a continuous thread woven into the fabric of our society. We’re going to be talking about breaking free from the limitations of designated months and exploring the importance of teaching Black history throughout the entire year.

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Show Notes

Today we’re talking about the significance of incorporating Black history into everyday learning, celebrating the achievements, resilience, and contributions of Black individuals that have shaped our world. Let’s challenge the conventional narrative and commit to a more inclusive and comprehensive approach to education. We want to encourage you to celebrate Black history beyond a confined month and embrace it as an inseparable part of your year-round curriculum.

This is an important conversation that transcends boundaries and will foster a deeper understanding of our shared history. We already know about Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Underground Railroad, and Harriet Tubman, and we’ve all read “To Kill a Mockingbird” but oftentimes history lessons seem to end with those.

As non-Black creators, we do want to make sure that as part of our commitment to incorporating Black History all year long, we aren’t overstepping with our own content.  We want to elevate the work and words and first hand accounts of Black authors, artists, and content creators.  So this episode will be full of links to other sites, resources, and pages. Please go visit them!

Reading

Listed are five Black history resources specifically created for children by Black authors or creators. Click the below image For our Full List of Literature and Beautiful Stories by Age Group:

See the Full List categorized by Age >>

Books: Pre-K – 8th

“Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History” by Vashti Harrison (Women’s Version): Vashti Harrison introduces young readers to 40 trailblazing Black women who made significant contributions throughout history. The book is filled with vibrant illustrations and inspiring stories that empower and educate children.

“Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History” by Vashti Harrison (Men’s Version): Did you know that the father of African cinema was originally a bricklayer? Or that Vogue’s editor-at-large read his first Vogue magazine in his local library? Learn all about the exceptional black men who broke barriers and fought injustice to realise their dreams and make the world a better place.

“The Undefeated” by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson: This is a powerful and poetic look at black Americans, who always remained undefeated in their hearts. If you know a young child, who is having a hard time trying to deal with identity, then this book will help them see that there are many who have struggled with the same issues that they are facing. Struggled and ultimately won. Kwame Alexander as written, a lot of really great books including the crossover and booked – they usually have a sports theme. So if you have a sports enthusiast, check him out. 

“Sulwe” by Lupita Nyong’o: Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o authored “Sulwe,” a beautifully illustrated children’s book that addresses themes of self-esteem and beauty. The story follows a young girl’s journey to embrace her own unique beauty and highlights the importance of self-love.

“I Am Enough” by Grace Byers: This is a picture book that celebrates diversity and self empowerment. This is a beginning story about everything you can be and do because you are different and yet are all the same too. It’s so well done. There are a few lines per page so it’s simple for young children. It really takes important concepts and makes it easy to understand and teaches your kids that they are enough. 

“Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad” by Ellen Levine, illustrated by Kadir Nelson: This book tells the true story of Henry Brown, a slave who mailed himself to freedom in a wooden crate. The book, beautifully illustrated by Kadir Nelson, introduces children to an important aspect of Black history in a sensitive and age-appropriate manner.

Books: Teenagers & Young Adults

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jrs. “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” 1963: In this famous open letter written in 1963, MLK talks about people taking a moral responsibility to break unjust laws and take direct action. you are probably familiar with his famous quote “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. He makes a fantastic, reasoned case for the validity of nonviolent, direct action to achieve the objective of bringing those who refused to negotiate to the table. If you’ve never read the letter, or had your children, read it, please do! I love how Dr. King starts off and then also ends with a whole bit about how he usually is “too damn busy” to deal with the haters, but it’s the haters who put him in jail. This letter is so important, and still reads to be so true and so relevant today. It is incredibly powerful and inspiring. Visit The King Center in person and online.

“Stamped from the Beginning” by Ibram X. Kendi: In this award-winning book, Ibram X. Kendi explores the history of racist ideas in America, offering a thought-provoking analysis of how these ideas have shaped the nation’s development. It provides valuable insights into the historical roots of racism. Also, the author of “How to Be an Anti-racist” Dr. Kendi provides insights into what it means to be anti-racist and advocates for actively combating racist ideas and policies.  There’s a remixed JR version of this book by Jason Reynolds that is great!

“The Souls of Black Folk” by W.E.B. Du Bois: Du Bois, a pioneering African American sociologist and historian addresses the experience of Black Americans in the early 20th century. You’re going to learn so much about that time period by reading this book. He discusses issues of race, identity, and equality and his words are really thought-provoking and in many cases, action provoking, because there is so much more that still needs to be done. 

“Hidden Figures” by Margot Lee Shetterly: Telling the true story of the African American women mathematicians who played crucial roles at NASA during the space race. The book sheds light on their contributions to science and challenges the stereotypes of the time. There’s a movie, too!

“Brown Girl Dreaming” by Jacqueline Woodson: This memoir is a beautifully written exploration of her childhood and coming-of-age as an African American girl. I really enjoyed this one. It was so interesting to see the things that Jacqueline went through growing up and how she handled herself. It’s a beautiful memoir touching on so many important themes like family, race, and even feminism.

Support Black-owned businesses  

In today’s economic landscape, it’s really important to support Black-owned businesses. It’s not just about making a choice; it’s actually a way to make a difference and empower the community. When we spend our money intentionally with Black entrepreneurs, we’re not just boosting their businesses, but we’re also breaking down those long standing barriers that have held them back. It’s like every purchase becomes a small act of activism, driving change in a positive direction.

It’s about more than just transactions; it’s about solidarity, amplifying voices, and fostering inclusivity in our commerce. Supporting Black owned businesses helps celebrate diversity, promote economic equity, and uplift Black businesses as integral pillars of our communities.

Investing in local artisans

Shopping at Black-owned boutiques

Dining at Black-owned restaurants

Black-owned bookstores

There are thousands of bookstores in the US and less than 150 are black owned. We live in North Texas, and if you are in our area, there are 2 Black Owned bookstores that are worth a visit:

The Dock in Fort Worth, is the Largest Black owned full service bookstore. This is the cutest bookshop. The owners are so nice! The vibe is calm and welcoming. They have a mission to inspire, inform, and entertain customers through books and book related events.

Blacklit in Dallas was founded by local educator & diversity/inclusion advocate, Nia-Tayler Clark,  BLACKLIT’s mission is to help close the literacy gap, to increase representation, and to cultivate conversations that bring unity across racial divides.

For the past three years, Blacklit has been home to the first monthly subscription box to exclusively highlight Black authors and entrepreneurs, helping to support, promote, and bring visibility to Black authors and Black-owned businesses. Inside every box, subscribers receive a book a Black author, a shirt, and 3-5 products from Black-owned businesses. So, if you can’t go in person?  Order one of these.

Visit Black museums

Examples: National Museum of African American History & Culture, the Motown Museum in Michigan, The National Civil Rights Museum in person or online:

One of the best things to happen out of Covid was the ability to access so many resources online – museums and virtual tours without ever leaving your home! We created a worldwide virtual museum blog post that has tons of resources. 

Virtual and online resources celebrating diversity:

  • National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC):
    • The NMAAHC, part of the Smithsonian Institution, offers a wealth of resources, including exhibitions, collections, and educational materials. Their website provides access to a vast array of digital resources, making it an excellent online destination for exploring Black history.
  • Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture:
    • Located in New York City, the Schomburg Center is a research library and cultural institution focused on the history and contributions of people of African descent. Their digital collections, exhibitions, and educational programs provide valuable insights into Black history and culture.

Other Learning Resources

  • The HistoryMakers:
    • The HistoryMakers is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and sharing the stories of African Americans who have made significant contributions to various fields. Their digital archive includes interviews, documentaries, and educational resources that showcase the achievements of Black individuals throughout history.
  • National Urban League:
    • The National Urban League has been working towards economic empowerment and social justice for African Americans since 1910. Their website offers reports, publications, and resources addressing various aspects of Black history, civil rights, and social issues.
  • Teaching Tolerance – Black History Month Resources:
    • Teaching Tolerance, a project by the Southern Poverty Law Center, provides a range of educational resources for teachers and parents. Their Black History Month resources include lesson plans, classroom activities, and articles aimed at promoting a more inclusive and accurate understanding of Black history.

Watch movies and documentaries

Here are some great films that explore various aspects of Black history:

“Loving” is a heartfelt drama based on the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple whose marriage led to a landmark Supreme Court case. Set in 1960s Virginia, the film portrays their courageous fight against state laws banning interracial marriage, ultimately challenging societal norms and paving the way for marriage equality.

“I Am Not Your Negro” is a compelling documentary that brings to life James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript, exploring the lives and assassinations of civil rights leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr. Through Baldwin’s powerful words and archival footage, the film provides a thought-provoking examination of race, identity, and America’s ongoing struggle with systemic racism.

“13th” is a gripping documentary that explores the intersection of race, justice, and mass incarceration in the United States, tracing the historical roots of the 13th Amendment’s loophole that perpetuates slavery through the criminal justice system. Through compelling interviews and archival footage, the film exposes the systemic inequalities and highlights the urgent need for criminal justice reform.

“12 Years a Slave”– Directed by Steve McQueen, this powerful film tells the true story of Solomon Northup, a free Black man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in the 19th century.

“Selma” – Directed by Ava DuVernay, this historical drama chronicles the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches led by Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, and other civil rights leaders.

“Malcolm X” – Directed by Spike Lee, this biographical epic stars Denzel Washington as the influential civil rights leader Malcolm X, tracing his transformation from a petty criminal to a powerful advocate for Black empowerment.

“The Color Purple” – based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker, this film follows the life of Celie, an African-American woman in the early 20th century in the rural South, in a world that surrounds her with cruelty. She navigates through oppression, abuse, and eventual empowerment. 

“Glory” – Directed by Edward Zwick, this historical war drama tells the story of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, one of the first all-Black regiments in the Union Army during the American Civil War.

“Fruitvale Station” – Directed by Ryan Coogler, this film is based on the true story of Oscar Grant, a young Black man who was fatally shot by a police officer in Oakland, California, on New Year’s Day in 2009.

“Get on the Bus” – Directed by Spike Lee, this drama follows a group of African-American men from Los Angeles who journey to the Million Man March in Washington, D.C., exploring themes of identity, masculinity, and social justice.

“The Butler” – Directed by Lee Daniels, this historical drama follows the life of Cecil Gaines, a Black butler who served in the White House for over three decades, witnessing firsthand the civil rights movement and its impact on American society.

Music and Art

Black music stands as a cornerstone of Black history, weaving a rich tapestry of cultural expression, resilience, and innovation. From the spirituals born out of the brutalities of slavery to the rhythms of jazz that emerged from the streets of New Orleans, and the soulful melodies of Motown that captured the spirit of a generation, Black music has been a powerful vehicle for storytelling and social commentary. 

It’s been a source of joy and solace, a means of protest and empowerment, and a catalyst for social change. Through blues, gospel, hip-hop, and beyond, Black musicians have continually pushed boundaries, shattered stereotypes, and paved the way for future generations, leaving an indelible mark on the global musical landscape. As we celebrate Black History Month, let’s honor the legacy of Black music and its enduring influence on the world stage. There are countless incredible Black musicians to explore across genres, but we are only going to list five whose contributions have been particularly influential:

Musicians
  • Aretha Franklin – Known as the “Queen of Soul,” Aretha Franklin’s powerful voice and emotional depth revolutionized popular music. With hits like “Respect,” “Think,” and “Natural Woman,” she became an icon of the civil rights and feminist movements, leaving an indelible mark on soul, R&B, and pop music.
  • Jimi Hendrix – Widely regarded as one of the greatest guitarists of all time, Jimi Hendrix’s innovative approach to rock music reshaped the genre. His electrifying performances and groundbreaking albums like “Are You Experienced” and “Electric Ladyland” continue to inspire generations of musicians.
  • Nina Simone – A classically trained pianist and singer, Nina Simone’s distinctive voice and fearless activism made her a singular figure in music history. Her songs, such as “Feeling Good,” “To Be Young, Gifted and Black,” and “Mississippi Goddam,” encapsulate the struggles and triumphs of the civil rights era.
  • Stevie Wonder – A musical prodigy who signed to Motown at just 11 years old, Stevie Wonder’s unparalleled talent as a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist has earned him widespread acclaim. With timeless hits like “Superstition,” “I Just Called to Say I Love You,” and “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours,” he has shaped the landscape of pop, R&B, and funk music.
  • Beyoncé – As one of the most successful and influential artists of the 21st century, Beyoncé’s impact transcends music. With her powerhouse vocals, electrifying performances, and boundary-pushing artistry, she has redefined the possibilities for Black women in the industry. From her early days with Destiny’s Child to her solo career and groundbreaking visual albums like “Lemonade,” Beyoncé continues to inspire and empower audiences worldwide.
 Artists

Here are five contemporary Black artists who have made significant contributions to the art world:

  • Kehinde Wiley – Renowned for his vibrant and provocative portraits, Kehinde Wiley reimagines historical European paintings by replacing their subjects with contemporary African American figures. His work challenges traditional notions of power, race, and representation, and he gained widespread acclaim for his portrait of Barack Obama, which is part of the National Portrait Gallery’s collection.
  • Kerry James Marshall – Known for his bold and meticulously crafted paintings, Kerry James Marshall explores the Black experience in America, often depicting scenes of everyday life in Black communities. His work confronts issues of race, identity, and cultural heritage while celebrating the beauty and resilience of Black people.
  • Mickalene Thomas – Recognizable for her elaborate and colorful mixed-media portraits, Mickalene Thomas explores themes of femininity, sexuality, and race. Through her collage-style compositions and use of rhinestones and acrylic paint, she challenges conventional notions of beauty and representation, often featuring Black women as the central subjects of her work.
  • Kara Walker – Best known for her silhouette installations, Kara Walker explores the complexities of race, gender, and power in American history. Her provocative and often controversial work confronts viewers with the legacy of slavery and its ongoing impact on contemporary society, prompting critical dialogue about race relations in America.
  • Theaster Gates – A multidisciplinary artist, Theaster Gates works across various mediums, including sculpture, installation, and performance, to explore issues of race, urban renewal, and social justice. Through his innovative art projects and community-based initiatives, he seeks to revitalize neglected neighborhoods and preserve Black culture and heritage.

These artists represent just a few of the many talented Black artists making waves in the contemporary art world, challenging norms, and shaping conversations about race, identity, and representation.

All of the resources cover a range of genres, including history, sociology, literature, and memoir, providing diverse perspectives and voices within Black history. They are valuable contributions to the understanding and celebration of Black experiences and achievements. Hopefully we’ve given you some ideas to incorporate more Black History into your home school all year long.

FREE Unit Study: Before the 4th of July

Before the 4th of July Unit Study
This 3-week Unit Study is an American Girl history exploration with Kaya to help your child understand what it was like to live as a Native American in the 1700’s.

As we gather to celebrate the Fourth of July, it’s crucial to recognize that the roots of this significant occasion extend far beyond the year 1776 when the colonists declared their independence. The land we now call America was and continues to be inhabited by a remarkable and diverse array of Indigenous peoples, whose vibrant cultures and deep connections to the land shaped the very fabric of this nation. Within this context, we embark on a captivating journey with Kaya, an extraordinary American Girl doll who represents the rich tapestry of Native American heritage.

Kaya 2014 Mini Doll & Book (American Girl)

Kaya stands as a unique figure among the American Girl dolls, as she embodies the spirit and resilience of the Indigenous peoples who inhabited this land long before European settlers arrived. As we explore Kaya’s life, it’s important to remember that the sight of a European person in her world would have been an unexpected and unfamiliar encounter. Through the exploration of her story, we gain a profound understanding of the profound influence Indigenous cultures have had on America’s history and identity.

Throughout this homeschool unit study, we will begin on an enlightening adventure, honoring the legacy of the Indigenous peoples while celebrating the significance of the Fourth of July. We will discover the intricacies of Kaya’s life and the astonishing diversity of Indigenous cultures that thrived and continue to thrive across this vast land. By understanding and appreciating the Indigenous heritage that predates the birth of the United States, we deepen our connection to the collective narrative that shaped this nation.

Join us as we journey through the pages of history, weaving together the stories of Indigenous peoples, the struggles for freedom, and the rich cultural tapestry that makes America truly unique.

START HERE:

Begin to read Kaya: An American Girl: 1764:

You don’t need to complete all the books before beginning this unit study. Read 1-2 chapters a day to your children. There’s a good chance they may love them so much that they want to keep reading all the way through the 8-book set. This set will take you and your children on an incredible journey through history as you explore Kaya’s life and learn about elements of Nez Perce customs and language.

Incorporate Play:

Kaya’s Paper Dolls

Have fun with Kaya and her friends with outfits to cut out and scenes to play:

6 pc Horse Play Set

Have fun with these detailed miniature toy horses while you read about Kaya’s life.

The narrative of the story immerses readers in Kaya’s character, providing an authentic depiction of her Native American culture in the year 1764. As the story unfolds, Kaya undergoes significant personal growth, evolving into a compassionate individual who gains wisdom from her errors. Her cherished horse assumes a vital role, symbolizing an inseparable bond with Kaya’s existence. Ultimately, “Meet Kaya” imparts a valuable lesson about transcending youthful arrogance and discovering redemption through acts of selflessness. The very source of pride, embodied by the swift and magnificent horse, becomes the catalyst for a remarkable rescue.

Week 1

  1. Map: Mark Kaya’s home on the map. Explain that, unlike later girls, we don’t know exactly where Kaya lived. In fact, she probably didn’t have homes in the traditional sense, since the Nez Perce were a nomadic people who moved around to follow hunting opportunities. Explore an interactive map of Native American tribes across the United States.
  2. Timeline: Find 1764, as well as 1754, the year Kaya was born and record in the Book of Centuries. Check out the internet to find other events happening in America at about that time and record those too. The most significant of these for Kaya would have been more and more European settlers coming to the Northwest. Discover important events in Native American history on this timeline and record them in your Book of Centuries to help gain perspective of these events.
  3. Craft: Choose a craft to work on while you’re studying Kaya. Consider either a leather craft or beading, both of which would have been popular among the Nez Perce. Remind your child that beads would have been very valuable and obtained by trading with European settlers. So much of the beautiful beading was so intricate and may be difficult for your young child. This natural clay bead kit would be a good alternative for young hands.
Leather Bag Craft Kit

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Week 2

  1. Introduce the Founding Fathers, the Founding Mothers, and their contributions. Remind your child that Kaya would not have heard of these people.
  2. Explore and Learn about the Lewis and Clark Expedition from an Indigenous perspective. Remind your child that Kaya may have heard of Lewis and Clark, who came through the Northwest when Kaya was much older. Go outside and explore and teach your child to respect the natural world they encounter.
  3. Native Nations: Explore this map and all the Native American Nations that were encountered on the Lewis and Clark expedition.
  4. Act It Out: Have your children choose a scene or event from one of the books to act it out together.
Explore Native American Nations encountered by Lewis and Clark

Week 3

  1. Animals: Animals were a very important part of Kaya’s life. Have you child consider how the life of your pet is different from the animals in Kaya’s tribe. Learn about the unique relationship between Native Americans and their animal counterparts.
  2. Video: Watch this 2 min YouTube video on How Appaloosa Horses Keep Nez Perce Traditions Alive. See their horses and meet a a Nez Perce Family and see their traditional clothing and the pride of a young girl wearing her great grandmother’s dress.
  3. Nez Perce Today: Learn more about the Nez Perce Tribe and the Nimiipuu people that live in north-central Idaho with more that 3,500 citizens.
  4. Learn More: Visit The Nex Perce Museum in person or on their website and learn more about the objects they made and used over the past 10,000 years. Basketry, beadwork, ceremonials, toolmaking, language, their daily rhythms and cycles and how they were attuned to the land, and more!
Nez Perce Dugout Canoe and Tipi
20 Best Tips for Teaching Reading and Spelling
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