We know that Black history is American history and needs to be embedded into your classroom experiences year-round. At the same time, Black History Month provides the necessary opportunity to dig deeper with students. Every February, we can support students as they learn more, discover cultural impacts, and follow social movements from the past to the present day. These Black History Month lessons and activities cannot be isolated or one-off classroom experiences. Think of how you can connect these topics to what you’re already doing and make it authentic. And most important, do not just focus on oppression: Focus on the joy too!
Since 1928, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History has provided a theme for Black History Month. In 2024, the theme is African Americans and the Arts.
1. Learn the basics about Black History Month
Watch an introductory video about Black History Month. Then ask students to write their questions about Black history and use those to curate your resources and lessons for the month.
2. Re-create civil rights freedom posters
The Civil Rights Movement Veterans site offers powerful examples of freedom movement posters, as does the Civil Rights Digital Library. Review them with your students, and then have them get into groups and create their own to share.
3. Explore Black history through primary sources from the National Archives
Primary sources are great discussion starters to talk about Black experiences. Choose from thousands of resources, including this 1970s photo series of Chicago.
4. Learn about famous Black artists
5. Watch a Black History Month video
Get more specific information or do a deep dive into an area of Black history with a video about civil rights, slavery, accomplished Black Americans, and more.
Check out this list of Black history videos for students in every grade level.
6. Learn about Black Lives Matter
7. Learn about the inventor of the traffic light
Garrett Morgan invented the traffic light and patented the three-position traffic signal. Teach students about his achievements as an example of how Black Americans impact our everyday experiences. Watch a video about Morgan and talk about what inspired his invention and how being an African American impacted him as an inventor.
Buy it: Garrett Morgan Activity Pack at Amazon
8. Create a newsletter or magazine with content from Black authors
Have your students generate their own newsletter or literacy magazine to distribute to parents. Include poems and short stories by Black authors, as well as student-generated writings and images that center on Black History Month.
9. Read a Black History Month poem
To enhance our conversations this month, we’ve put together this list of powerful Black History Month poems for kids of all ages.
10. Listen to young poet Amanda Gorman
Amanda Gorman is another accomplished Black American and a great introduction to Black poetry. Watch the poem she read at Barack Obama’s inauguration, read her book Change Sings, and learn about her at Poets.org.
Buy it: Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem at Amazon
11. Turn your classroom (or school!) into a history museum
Have your students choose a notable Black pioneer they’d like to know more about, such as voting rights and women’s rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer, dancer Alvin Ailey, or Betty Reid Soskin, the oldest full-time national parks ranger. Then, host a living museum right in your classroom.
12. Decorate your classroom door for Black History Month
Turn your classroom door into an educational experience. Check out how these teachers decorated their classroom doors in amazing ways to showcase Black History Month, and review this video with ideas.
13. Read books with Black characters in honor of Marley Dias
Dias is a young activist who started the #1000blackgirlbooks campaign as a sixth grader. She has compiled an excellent guide to books with Black girl characters. Check out WeAreTeachers’ list of books with Black protagonists as well.
14. Learn the story of the Henrietta Marie
The Henrietta Marie was a slave ship that sunk off the coast of Florida. Learn about the ship, its journey, and the underwater memorial that honors African slaves. Get more information about the Henrietta Marie at National Geographic.
15. Experience the I Have a Dream speech from multiple perspectives
Read A Place to Land: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech that Inspired a Nation by Barry Wittenstein. Then, watch the I Have a Dream Speech online, and explore resources about the speech at National Geographic. Engage students in discussing why this speech is so important in American history and why it continues to resonate today.
Buy it: A Place to Land at Amazon
16. Meet Oprah
Oprah Winfrey is a name every student knows, learn more about this influential Black American in this interview:
17. Read Black History Month books
If you’re looking for more reading activities, these picture books help celebrate Black History Month and educate your students on how these influential Black people helped shape history.
18. Learn the art of stepping
Stepping is a form of dancing in which the body itself is used to create unique rhythms and sounds. The website Step Afrika! has videos and information about the history of stepping.
19. Take a virtual field trip to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
The digital collections of the Schomburg Center, located in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood, feature some amazing online exhibits, interviews, and podcasts.
20. Virtually visit the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
You can browse the collection online by topic, date, or place.
21. Host a poetry reading featuring works by Black poets
Have students choose a poem by a Black poet to learn and recite for the class. Choose a student to serve as the emcee, write up a program, and set the tone with dimmed lights and jazz music played between performances. The Poetry Foundation has excellent resources that can help get you started.
Here’s inspiration with Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise:
22. Check out online Black history exhibits
Educating yourself and your students with these shows is one more way to understand Black history and the current moment.
23. Dive into Georgia Stories: Black History Collection on PBS
As a state, Georgia played a huge role in the 2020 presidential election, and its Black history dates back to the earliest days of slavery in the colony.
24. Discuss implicit bias, systemic racism, and social justice
Start a much-needed discussion around implicit bias and systemic racism with these resources that can empower students to fight for justice in our society.
25. Read and discuss Freedom in Congo Square
The award-winning picture book Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford and R. Gregory Christie is a nonfiction children’s book that describes the tyranny of slavery to help young readers understand how jubilant Sundays were for slaves.
Buy it: Freedom in Congo Square at Amazon
26. Watch Kevin Hart’s Guide to Black History
Kevin Hart highlights the fascinating contributions of Black history’s unsung heroes in this entertaining—and educational—comedy special.
27. Recognize Black visionaries
This great poster featuring activists, artists, authors, and revolutionaries will highlight Black changemakers in your classroom. Use companion activities to deepen understanding by researching several of the visionaries and asking students to write a story or create their own poster about what they’ve learned.
28. Review a timeline of Black history
Why is Black History Month in February? How long ago was it founded, and who started it? Find the answers to these questions and learn more with this timeline.
29. Explore the music of Black artists
This lesson traces the long history of how Black artists have used music as a vehicle for communicating beliefs, aspirations, observations, joy, despair, resistance, and more across U.S. history.
30. Sample Black-founded snack brands
Honor Black History Month with delicious snacks from Black-founded brands delivered to your classroom—5% of proceeds are donated to the Equal Justice Initiative and one meal is donated to Feeding America for every box delivered.
31. Understand the role of Black women in NASA’s history
How much do your students know about Black contributions to space exploration? Rent the film Hidden Figures and watch with your students to remember, honor, and share the incredible accomplishments of three Black women working on NASA’s space flight program. Before watching the movie, research the liberties the film took in telling the story and discuss with your students the function of the choices. Did the filmmakers make the right choices?
Watch it: Hidden Figures at Amazon
32. Support local Black-owned businesses
Research your city’s Black-owned businesses and see if you can purchase a sample of their products, invite some of the entrepreneurs to speak to your class, or book a field trip!
33. Stream Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices on Netflix
“Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices is a live-action collection of 12 five-minute episodes featuring prominent Black celebrities and artists reading children’s books from Black authors that highlight the Black experience.”
34. Celebrate the “Black Lives Matter at School” movement
“Black Lives Matter at School” is a national coalition organized for racial justice in education. It encourages all educators, students, parents, unions, and community organizations to join an annual week of action during the first week of February each year. For a variety of Black History Month activities, visit their website to learn more about their campaign.
35. Watch a historic moment
When Barack Obama was inaugurated in 2009, it was a monumental day for Black History. Watch his inauguration and discuss what this meant for American history.
36. Analyze Hair Love
You can approach the book Hair Love by Matthew Cherry in a few ways. Talk about the importance of representation in picture books and media, have students share their connections with the story, or analyze the book as a story about modern Black families.
Buy it: Hair Love at Amazon
37. Study the Underground Railroad
Examine the Underground Railroad using various sources, like the picture book biography Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome. National Geographic has a collection of resources about the Underground Railroad. And you can take a virtual tour of the Harriet Tubman museum.
Buy it: Before She Was Harriet at Amazon
38. Research Juneteenth
Juneteenth is a holiday that celebrates the freedom of enslaved people. Learn about Juneteenth, how it came about, and what it means to Black Americans with these National Geographic resources.
39. Listen to musician Rhiannon Giddens
As she was trying to understand and make sense of violence against Black Americans in 2020, folk musician Rhiannon Giddens wrote and released the song “Build a House.” The song came out on the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth. The song, which was made into a picture book, captures 400 years of Black history in a lyrical and thoughtful way. Use Giddens’ book either to introduce or wrap up a month on Black history.
Read an essay about the song, and watch the video.
Buy it: Build a House at Amazon
40. Study the pivotal court case Loving v. Virginia
Loving v. Virginia, decided in 1967, made marriage between people of different races legal. Learn about the Loving decision and why it’s important at National Geographic.