February 16th, 2019

20 pertinent classroom resources for Black History Month

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Bayard Rustin, seen here in 1964 surrounded by young people before a demonstration, was a a civil rights and a gay rights activist and chief organizer of the 1963 March on Washington. Photo by Ed Ford/New York World-Telegram and the Sun staff photographer – Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Commemorate Black History Month in your classroom with 20 lesson plans and resources that cover topics ranging from civil rights events to discussions about race in current events. These resources provide authentic student-driven learning experiences that will help all kids participate in Black History Month.

Introduction to Selma | Lesson Plan

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Help introduce and engage students in the story of the March from Selma to Montgomery with clips from the film, “Selma”, courtesy of Paramount Pictures. In the main activity, students will be asked to view three short videos about the March and critically think about the audience, message, and stereotypes seen.

Teaching About Selma | Lessons and Resources from Teaching for Change

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Try out these interactive lessons and recommended resources from Teaching for Change that invite students to step into the history and think critically and creatively about the continued fight for justice today.

The March on Washington basic resources | Resources

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This resource page includes a quick guide to the March on Washington, an interactive timeline of the civil rights movement and a glossary of terms. Use these to get started on your classroom curriculum.

A history of discrimination and its consequences | Lesson Plan


GRADES: Middle and High School

In this lesson for middle and high school students, students analyze what “The American Dream” means and what role racial discrimination may play in failing to attain that dream.

A time for change | Lesson Plan


GRADES: Middle and High School

Use this lesson plan and interactive timeline to see the sequence of events leading up to the iconic March on Washington, who was involved in the march and what the march hoped to achieve.

“I have a dream” speech as a visionary text | Lesson Plan


GRADES: Middle school

Help your students connect to the rich imagery of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech by learning the history of the speech and then illustrating some of its most famous lines in this creative lesson plan.

“I have a dream” as a work of literature | Lesson Plan


GRADES: 9 – 12

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s delivered his most memorable speech, “I Have a Dream,” on August 28, 1963 before more than 200,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., as part of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Racial equality – How far have we come and how far do we still need to go? | Lesson Plan


GRADES: Middle and High School

Martin Luther King., Jr. dreamed of an America where people could “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Use this lesson plan to start a discussion in your classroom about where we are on the path to realizing this dream.

Discrimination – fair or unfair? | Lesson Plan


GRADES: All grades, and including students with intellectual disabilities. It is designed specifically for students who have difficulty with verbal and written expression.

Make issues of fairness, justice and discrimination personal to your students with this lesson plan, which includes an activity with Dr. Seuss!

Leadership at the March through music and speeches | Lesson Plan


GRADES: Middle and High School

While Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech became the most famous of the March on Washington, he was by no means to only person to address the massive crowd assembled on the National Mall. Use this lesson plan to look at the other civil rights leaders and orators who spoke that day and how effectively they conveyed their messages.

The March on Washington and its impact | Lesson Plan

380887 08: Over two hundred thousand people gather in front of the Lincoln Memorial August 28, 1963, during a rally in support of civil rights legislation. (photo by National Archive/Newsmakers)

Over two hundred thousand people gather in front of the Lincoln Memorial August 28, 1963, during a rally in support of civil rights legislation. (photo by National Archive/Newsmakers)

GRADES: Middle and High School

In this lesson plan, students compare King’s “I Have a Dream” speech to other famous texts in American history, including the Emancipation Proclamation and the Gettysburg Address. This is a great addition to any speech, English or history class.

Analyzing “Stop and Frisk” through personal narratives and infographics | Lesson Plan


This Common Core-aligned lesson helps students explore the New York City’s “stop, question and frisk” program through videos, graphics and a news article. An engaging introduction creates a foundation to help students understand infographics and their utility as a cross-curricular tool.

Debating race, justice and policy in the case of Trayvon Martin | Lesson Plan

protest trayvonPut your students in the shoes of the lawyers from the Trayvon Martin case in this simulation designed for middle and high school students. They will examine the legal aspects of the events through text and defend their decision either with a written or spoken assessment.

Happening Yesterday, Happened Tomorrow | Renee Watson in Rethinking Schools 

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Teaching students about the murders of black men and boys can seem daunting. In this resource from Rethinking Schools, Renee Watson shares how she brought this topic into her classroom.

Remembering Nelson Mandela | Lesson Plan


In this lesson plan, students will use text from Mandela’s autobiography “Long Walk to Freedom” to connect with Mandela’s life and words. It also contains a 20-minute video from the PBS NewsHour to help students understand the magnitude of his life.

The Trials of Muhammad Ali | Discussion Guide


Use this trailer and discussion guide to pique students’ interest in the story of Muhammad Ali, who was both an athlete and a defender of human rights. You can purchase the film on iTunes, but it is not recommended for class use due to language and some mature content unless it has been approved by you and your school to use in the classroom. Interested in watching the film and participating in a discussion with local leaders and nonprofits?

 “Let America be America again” by Langston Hughes | Poem and Questions


The Great Books Foundation has a free resource for teachers who want to engage and discuss Hughes’ famous poem about the American dream. Download the “High School Sample Unit” in the right column and look for the poem and discussion questions starting on page 8. The unit also contains a lesson on “Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address,” starting on page 50.

Student Reporting Labs “Race and Change” videos | Resource


Use this dynamic resource to get students thinking about Martin Luther King, Jr. and whether his dream has been accomplished today. These 12 high school students are part of PBS NewsHour’s Student Reporting Labs and come from around the country.

Submit Your Student Voice

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