African American History is American History- Creative Resources for Teaching African American History

Sailors reading, writing, and relaxing at the Red Cross Rest Room in New Orleans. National Archives (165-WW-127A-016)

Dr. David Childs, Ph.D.
Northern Kentucky University

One of the core values of our democratic society in the United States is the celebration of diversity and inclusion, honoring individuals of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Indeed, one of our core civic responsibilities is to be respectful of and even learn to appreciate those of a different cultural background than ourselves. Classrooms should be spaces where teachers create an environment whereby students learn to be accepting of people and values different from their own. For much of US history the African American experience and culture has been undervalued. Indeed, much of Black history has been lost because African Americans have historically been treated as second class citizens and even sub-human in many instances. As a result of society’s subjugation of African Americans, much of the history was not preserved, indeed invaluable primary sources have been lost, never to be recovered. Furthermore, even much of the historical documents that have been preserved have been forgotten or overlooked.

In celebration of Black history month we would like to offer teachers some creative resources for teaching in middle and secondary classrooms. The website Nueseum Ed created and sponsored by the organization Freedom Forum Institute provides countless lesson plans on a variety of subjects on US history in general, including many great lessons on Black history. For example, the Nuseum website offers a Civil Rights interactive timeline that can be helpful in social studies classrooms. Other lessons and resources featured on the site include African Americans and religious freedom, the Dred Scott decision, the Brown vs. Board of Education case and a lesson on Dr. Martin Luther King’s Birmingham letter

A website called Teacher’s First is also a great resource for Black history lesson plans and materials. Another great online resource for teachers is the National Museum of African American History and Culture website. The museum is a part of the Smithsonian system in Washington D.C. and is free of charge. The website has many fantastic teacher resources for Black history including an exhibit on Black culture during the 1960’s and 70’s, the Black experience in World War I and an exhibit about African Americans in the American West. The site has many wonderful digitized primary sources, videos and other resources that can be used in creative ways in social studies classrooms. 

References
Newseum Ed: Freedom Forum Institute
National Museum of African American History and Culture
Teachers First: Thinking Teachers, Teaching Thinkers
Democratic Society
Civic Responsibility
Five African Americans Forgotten in History


1 Comment

  1. I have always agreed with the sentiment, “African American History is American History”. For many Black people, the United States is all they know. Its the only culture they truly connect to and all of their, and their family’s, lived experiences as far back as they can trace are here. The United States claims to truly repent slavery but I think one of the most horrendous side effects of the use of slavery in the United States is that we stole people from their culture and their lands and we now deny the new culture they have created after being forced onto this land. American history as we know it has definitely overlooked or forgotten Black history as Dr. Childs says. This can lead to Black students feeling just that — overlooked or forgotten. Angel Jones, an educator and advocate, said something along the lines of, “I’m not just Black in February. I’m Back year-round’ and this really struck a cord to me. As a white woman I have always seen myself represented, especially in history. I’m not limited to just a month of white history so why do we limit ourselves to only a month of Black history when Black people built this nation? I think resources like Teacher’s First and the National Museum of African American History and Culture, plus many more like them, are essential to creating a classroom environment that is multicultural and especially places emphasis on Black Americans as this is their history too after all and everyone deserves the right to an unbiased, anti-racist education.

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