Ways to Make Black History More Than a Month - History Gal

Ways to Make Black History More Than a Month

by History Gal

As history teachers part of our job is to introduce our students to a variety of historical perspectives, experiences, and opinions. While, these diverse voices were critical to the development of the United States, most of our textbooks and the curriculum we are required to teach don't always put these diverse narratives at the forefront. That means it falls to us to do it. Truthfully, it's hard. It's extra work and time that teachers don't always have. Usually, when January moves into February and Black History Month is splashed all over television and social media, I remember to take a look at my lessons and evaluate how well I am doing at incorporating the diverse voices and experiences that molded the United States. If you are like me, here are a few tips to help your lessons become more inclusive throughout the year.

Think Holistically
Simply tacking on an addendum at the end of the unit to highlight African Americans groups can
make it seem like a parallel history when, in fact, the everything is intertwined together. While it’s important to cover important figures like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., think about ways to weave the stories of African Americans into each unit to remind students that our history is a collective one.
Get Interactive
The cultural pieces that surround the African American struggle for justice and emancipation are a great way to incorporate art into your class. Spoken word poetry and written poetry, jazz, hip hop music, and dance all provide opportunities to weave the African American experience into your lessons. You can listen (or watch) examples and then have students create their own song or poem or even hold a poetry slam.
Invite Diverse Voices to Teach About Diverse Histories
To make the material you are covering more authentic and engaging, invite a speaker to your classroom that has the expertise to help your class and yourself to learn more. If you can't find a speaker, spend some time looking for a documentary to show to your students to help expand on the points you make in your lessons.
Take Advantage of Resources
For teachers who aren’t sure where to begin, there are many online tools available to help. Edutopia has a list sites with lesson plans and ideas to incorporate the narrative of African Americans into the history in the United States. Visit the NEA for a list of lesson ideas for weaving in stories of Hispanic Americans. Education World complied a list of lessons and resources for including the stories of women in U.S. History. 
Take A Class Field Trip
You don’t have to visit the Lincoln Memorial where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his speech, or some far away historical site (unless of course, it’s right around the corner!) in order to learn about African American history. There is diversity everywhere. Take a look around. You’ll find a showcase, play, or landmark that represents the struggles and triumphs of historically marginalized people nearby. During September/October (Hispanic History Month), February (Black History Month), and March (Women's History Month) local libraries, colleges, and museums often hold talks or hosting several activities related to the different histories. 
Black History Month
If you want to allocate some specific time for African American history in February without treating it as an after thought, weave it into the month. The NEA has some great lesson ideas, but you can also create your own. Students can brush up on their research abilities with a digital scavenger hunt to gather information about important African Americans in U.S. History. Students can also work as part of a group to create a
civil rights timeline specific to the period of time you are covering in February.
Go Beyond February
How can you include
diverse perspectives throughout the school year? When you create research assignments include options for researching people of color, women, or people who were differently-abled, etc. When you teach about the women’s movement in the United States, make it more diverse by including the contributions of African American or Latina women. At the beginning of class, you can also take a few moments to discuss an person often left out of the history books.  
Give Students Of Diverse Experiences Space
To create an inclusive classroom, it’s important to give students from marginalized backgrounds space to speak their opinions, engage with material authentically, and provide them with the option to do projects on the parts of history they feel most connected to. And, sometimes this space should be a space for them to remain silent if they wish without forcing them to be the spokespeople for all people like them in history.  
As teachers we must be aware of each student’s unique experience. The more we allow them engage with material that matters to them, the more likely they will be to engage. We must make a point not to erase diverse people and voices from our classrooms, but amplify them. 

It won't happen overnight. But by adding lessons each year and being more purposeful in the weaving of diverse narratives into the story of our country, we can make our classes better.

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