Creative Ways To Celebrate Black History Month at School

Credit: Moren Hsu

Black History Month is commemorated in high schools all over America each February. While Black history ought to be incorporated in the school curriculum on the whole, educators are in special need of fresh ideas on how to make their February classes align with the theme better.

It is of critical importance to relate to your students tha part of our national history that has shaped it to an immense extent. By commemorating the Black History Month mindfully, you also ensure that all your students feel included, and you help create a safer school environment.

To plan activities that teach about Black history in your school, you have to make sure you understand the topic thoroughly yourself. For this reason, we’ll give you some ideas on how you can celebrate Black History Month. Then, we’ll look into how the commemoration came to be, when it gained momentum, and why it’s so important that it’s celebrated properly.

How To Celebrate Black History Month at School

Credit: Paulette Wooten

You might be wondering about the engaging and effective ways to celebrate Black History Month in your classes. There are countless fun activities you can bring to the classroom and only one way to execute each mindfully—plan ahead!

There will be many points to consider, like:

  1. Resources for study
  2. Project ideas
  3. Performance ideas
  4. Themes
  5. Events
  6. Announcements

How To Find Free Resources for Black History Month

With enough digging, you can stumble upon plenty of free resources for teaching your students about Black history. Along the way, you can come up with enjoyable classroom activities. Take a look at the table that lists some websites you can go to to find free resources:

Success Stories Research Podcasts Videos
The Root Teaching Tolerance NPR Edmentum International
XQ Super school Affinity Schools School Colors Share My Lesson
Black Enterprise Critical Resistance The Black History Buff Watch Know Learn

Come Up With Some Black History Project Ideas for Your High School

During Black History Month, you should assign various projects to your students. It will make learning about the topic interactive, enjoyable, and rewarding. High schoolers are highly competitive, and they love to show off with the results of the assigned work, so you cannot go wrong with this activity.

Think well ahead of time what type of project you can assign and organize it carefully. This will help your students understand the task easily and be eager to get down to work. What type of project you’ll come up with can vary from the subject you’re teaching or the aspect of the Black history you want your students to focus on.

For example, you can have your students search for prominent figures in the Black community that are succeeding in the contemporary world. Two or three can work on one personality they like and research their life stories. Students can then conduct a made-up interview with those prominent figures to showcase to their classmates. This will make for an innovative assignment and inspire your students to learn about various professions out there, not to mention it will enhance their reading and writing skills too.

Think About Black History Month School Performance Ideas

If you can engage your students in a performative work, the fun of it will certainly boost their motivation and make them engage with the subject matter more. Poetry readings are a popular way to have a class performance. Students can pick their own pieces from prominent Black poets, or you can assign them to your pupils.

You can also make students recite verses from plays and fiction. Whatever you do, make sure to create an ambiance. You should move students around the classroom as they read. The focus should be on the student who’s reciting a particular poem or reading a passage from a larger work.

Don’t Forget About School Themes for Black History Month

Every year has a particular Black History Month theme. For example, in 2019, it was Black Migrations. The year 2020 set the theme African Americans and the Vote to commemorate the 100th anniversary of introducing the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Whatever the theme of Black History Month, you can use it to your benefit and come up with activities that teach the importance of what the theme represents.

Will You Be Taking Your Students to Any Black History Month School Events?

If you want to implement school events into your celebration of Black History Month, you should plan it well in advance. Think about what your students would enjoy the most, whether it’s seeing a play, visiting a museum or a gallery, or even going to the movies. 

You can base your decision on the subject you’re teaching, or you can create a poll and have your students decide for themselves. Based on your area, there will be either a multitude of local events celebrating Black History Month or only several of them. Whichever the case, consider taking your students out of the classroom for one day, and then you can have a class discussing the event you attended.

Here are some places that organize various events for Black History Month in New York City and California:

New York City California
Harlem Heritage Tours African American Museum & Library
Jamaica Performing Arts Center Oakland Museum of CA
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture Henry J. Kaiser Memorial Park

Black History Month Announcements for Schools

Perhaps you’ll be in charge of writing a text for your school’s website that announces you’ll be commemorating Black History Month. Maybe you’ll need to tell it to your students in person. Make sure your announcement is respectful, to the point, and reflective of the ways you will be celebrating Black History Month.

This is also a perfect time to plan how you’ll decorate your classroom for February. Better still, engage your students and have them create posters or other material you can hang on the walls of classrooms or school corridors.

More Fun Activities for Celebrating Black History Month in a High School

Credit: Inbal Marilli

Suppose you have already planned the key ways to celebrate Black History Month, such as school projects, performances, and announcements. Now you can start implementing more activities into your classes that foster learning about the culture and history of the Black communities. Here are some ideas you might like:

  1. Have students do presentations
  2. Get your students to join a book club
  3. Organize a school play
  4. Have students do impersonations
  5. Let students get creative

Black History Month Presentations in a High School

When teaching history to students, it isn’t enough to tell them about ancient civilizations, the events that had major impacts, or the actions of important historical figures. If you want your students to learn, you need to engage them in the subject matter in a way that will make them truly interact with it.

One great way you can make students think hard about history or anything you’re teaching them related to the Black History Month is by making them do presentations on certain topics. You can make it a requirement for them to give their original viewpoints on the topic at the end of their presentations. This way, they practice critical reading skills while doing their research.

Engage Your Students With Reading About Black Lives

While we’re on the subject of reading, book clubs are a great way you can make students both read the works you assign and interact with the material. To be able to participate in book club discussions, they will have to focus on the material before them and make notes while studying it. You can create your own little book club in the classroom or have students join real ones. Do make sure you’re analyzing the works created by Black authors so that your students get a first-hand insight into Black lives.

Well-Read Black Girl is a great place to find works of literature and fiction written by and about Black people.

Is There a Play Dealing With Black History for High School Students?

If you’re a drama teacher, you should do a school play—either written by a Black author or one that features themes revolving around Black history and culture. You can never go wrong with Shakespeare and his “Othello,” but if you want more ideas, you can check out:

Teach About Important People During Black History Month in a New Way

If you want to put a spin on how you usually teach about notable people, you can have your students impersonate them. Here’s a plan you can follow:

  1. Teach the entire class a set of particular famous figures
  2. Have several students do homework on the same person
  3. Tell them they’ll need to prepare impersonations for the next class
  4. Have an impersonation contest

This type of activity is bound to make your students laugh. At the same time, they will be dedicated to the task with passion and competitive spirit. This will ensure they remember and learn from the people they studied about.

Use Art Projects to Teach Black History

The Black population accomplished much in the field of art. You can use that to inspire students to learn about the Black lives and culture. Jean-Michel Basquiat, who was discovered by and worked with Andy Warhol himself, was only one of many highly influential Black figures in visual art.

You can show your students some of the most prominent works by Black artists. After that, have them reproduce the pieces they liked the best or make original ones inspired by the works you’ve shown them. Your students can work with traditional painting material or create visual art digitally.

Black History Month in Schools—How Did It Come To Be?

The first time Black History Month was celebrated in schools was in 1970 in Kent, Ohio—yet, the idea was conceived much earlier. In 1926, Carter G. Woodson, the co-founder of The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) and the creator of The Journal of African American History, thought up the event that started it all. He called it Negro History Week.

Woodson’s goal was to introduce the study of African American history into regular school curricula. With that in mind, he picked the second week of February as the time to raise awareness of the subject’s importance and celebrate the African diaspora.

The time of the year was symbolic as it coincided with the birthdays of historical figures that had a prominent impact on the emancipation of people of color—Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.

Negro History Week was welcomed by educators, certain church members, and black communities. It eventually grew into what we today recognize as the Black History Month. Because of this, Woodson is considered by many to be the father of Black history.

Why Is Black History Month Essential for Schools?

While recent years have seen a growth in the Black History Month commemoration in areas other than education—one such example being Instagram’s Black History Month programthe celebration is crucial for schools. Its inception had everything to do with teaching Black history in American classrooms.

According to a study conducted by the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), Black history was taught in only 8%–9% of all classes across the country. You should contribute to the increase of those numbers and work actively towards transforming school culture in a way that is inclusive of all the members within it.

What To Keep in Mind When Teaching Black History

Black History Month deals with meaningful as well as sensitive topics generations of students have not been thoroughly educated on. You need to make sure you implement the right strategies to teach Black history to your students now. You should ask yourself whether:

  • You might be nurturing internalized racism
  • You know where Black communities come from

Are You Nurturing Internalized Racism?

If you’re teaching your students about the enslavement of African Americans, the initial fight for their emancipation, and how it all had a happy ending with the appointment of the first Black president in 2009, you might be nurturing internalized racism deep within your subconscious.

No one can be blamed for suffering the impacts of internalized racism—indeed, the Black communities are victims to it on a larger scale than their white neighbors. Still, it is your duty to recognize it in your actions and thought processes when interacting with people of a different race or ethnicity than your own.

For example, you could have a group of Black students who want to do a school project together. If you feel uneasy about them distancing themselves from their white classmates and wish to separate the group for this reason, you might be looking at it the wrong way. You don’t need to create tension and remind Black students they are different. Let them do a school project like you would let any other group of people work together, regardless of their race.

Catching internalized racism within you is extremely tricky because it’s so subtle, and in most cases, it comes with a genuine desire to not be racist. That’s why it’s crucial you educate yourself on the concept.

Where Do Black Communities Come From?

The birth of the Black communities was not their forced migration into America nor does their history begin when the American one does.

The kingdoms that were ruled by the Black people have deep roots in early African history. The civilizations that these people created and belonged to, “originated and flourished earlier than the medieval kingdoms of Europe,” as pointed out by Herbert J. Foster in his paper “The Ethnicity of the Ancient Egyptians.”

To get a complete insight into the original culture, settlements, and innovations of the Black folk, you could teach your students about:

You should give at least an overview lesson of these ancient civilizations to your students. Only then can you truly commemorate those figures that were prominent in contemporary history for breaking off the chains of oppression.

What Is Your Opinion on Teaching Black History Month?

Did you like our ideas for the fun activities with which you can teach high school students about Black history? Do you have some of your own to add to the list?

If you believe that teaching Black history should be incorporated across the entire curriculum, write to us. We would be happy to hear your views on the topic, as well as get any insight you might have. Help us shape a school culture that is conducive to real-world learning and that promotes social equality.