3 Tips for Diversifying your Black History Lessons

3 Tips for Diversifying your Black History Lessons

As Black History Month approaches, it's the perfect time to re-evaluate our approach to teaching Black history. While of course we should be teaching Black history all year long, February offers a special opportunity to celebrate Black history in an even deeper way.

While it's crucial to acknowledge the struggles faced by the Black community, we must also celebrate the joy, success, and achievements as an important aspect of Black history.

Here are three tips to diversify your Black History Month lessons and create a more inclusive and positive learning experience.

Explore Joyful Literature
Grab some books that highlight lesser-known but impactful stories in Black history. You could check out books like "Mae Among the Stars," which explores the life of Mae Jemison, the first African American woman astronaut. Delve into "Brave. Black. First.," which highlights the achievements of trailblazers who broke barriers in various fields. Or try "A Year Of Black Joy," which provides a collection of stories that go beyond struggles, showcasing the diversity of Black experiences throughout history.

Facilitate Positive Discussions
Shift the focus of your discussions by exploring important contributions and achievements of Black individuals and communities in history. For example, you could highlight Black inventors such as Garrett Morgan, who invented the traffic signal, or Dr. Patricia Bath, an ophthalmologist who invented a device for cataract surgery. Discuss the groundbreaking work of Black scientists like Dr. Percy Julian, a pioneer in the chemical synthesis of medicinal drugs. Explore the vibrant world of Black art and music, including artists like Augusta Savage and musicians like Sister Rosetta Tharpe, who significantly influenced their fields.

Highlight Diversity Within Black History
Ensure that your Black History Month lessons actively highlight the diversity within the Black community, going beyond the commonly taught narratives. Introduce your students to dark-skinned Black individuals who made remarkable contributions, such as Claudette Colvin, a teenager who refused to give up her seat on a bus months before Rosa Parks. You could talk about the reasons that her story never received as much attention as the story of Rosa Parks. Explore the histories of non-American Black communities, like Afro-Brazilians who played a significant role in Brazil's cultural and historical landscape. Acknowledge disabled Black individuals like Haben Girma, the first Deaf and blind Harvard Law School graduate. Emphasize the pivotal role played by Black women, not only in the civil rights movement but also in fields like science, literature, and activism.

As we begin another Black History Month, make sure you're not teaching the same old lessons about the same people. While those may be important, there is so much more to the story. And remember, Black history extends beyond February, and our commitment to uplifting Black voices and communities should be year-round. Let's make every day an opportunity to discover and celebrate the impactful stories that make up Black history.

Want to assess your Black History Month lessons to make sure they are truly diverse and rooted in justice? Grab our Black History Month checklist here.

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