This month, as teachers nationwide work to include highlights of African American history in their lesson plans, they are also challenged to make sure that themes of diversity and integration are carried through the curriculum year-round.
Schools, more than any other outlet, have perhaps the best opportunity to emphasize that black history is one and the same as American history — as encouraged in these reminders from Teaching Tolerance’s “Do’s and Don’ts of Black History Month.” Otherwise, February will remain the way it’s satirized in former Onion staffer Baratunde Thurston‘s book How to Be Black. Thurston writes “odds are high that you acquired this book during the nationally sanctioned season for purchasing black cultural objects, also known as Black History Month,” going on to suggest other ways the reader can celebrate the month.
We hope our list of books for Black History Month goes beyond February and offers some new sources that teachers will find useful year-round in “shifting the lens” — adding depth and relevance to historical events and periods by beginning with minority perspectives.
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
This narrative-based telling of the Great Migration, from 1915 to 1970, provides more personal, individualized context than other scholarship on this watershed event in African American history.
Walking to the Bus-Rider Blues by Harriette Gillem Robinet, illustrated by Raúl Colón
This historical fiction offers grades 3-7 a look at injustice in the Civil Rights era.
The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Memoir is an expressive genre for communicating contemporary history, and for getting to know another perspective through writing. This memoir has a unique style and a recent view of race and culture in America — topics frequently addressed by Coates’s writing in The Atlantic.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X as Told to Alex Haley by Malcolm X and Alex Haley
This classic account of the life and works of the Civil Rights movement’s most controversial leader has been a classroom mainstay for decades.
Detailing conditions in post-Emancipation America, Blackmon equates the exploitative punishments and intimidation leveled against former slaves and their families with a de facto form of slavery.
If you liked the articles linked at the top of this post, take a look at the great teaching resources specific to Black History Month on our Pinterest board. There are lesson plans, activities, media and more.