Celebrating and Acknowledging our Country’s History: The importance of celebrating Black History Month

After my digital library app recommended the book The Warmth of Other Suns to me for the 20th time, I checked it out during the summer of 2018. I only read one chapter before I bought my own digital copy, and then talked to everyone I knew about Isabel Wilkerson’s book. The greatest impact of Warmth for me wasn’t just building an understanding of the Great Migration as a critical part of American history. Reading the stories of three Americans as they adjusted to life in the north helped me understand current events and systemic racism in America in a new way. 

The biggest “aha” moment for me while reading The Warmth of Other Suns was the idea that some people weren’t “full Americans.” I was gobsmacked. Never had I thought of a person as less American than someone else, but it’s hard to unsee the truth. Without a doubt, people of color have to be more, do more, achieve more to be celebrated as great Americans. Be above reproach, get the best grades, run the fastest, sing the best. Then we’ll give you your passport. 

Reading that book put me in my place. I created a new understanding about my attitudes. Had you asked me, I would have said I was an anti-racist educator, that I was a champion for students from diverse backgrounds. And I was insofar as I could be in my ignorance. One of my “wrongest” beliefs was that we should stop celebrating Black History Month and simply integrate the history of all Americans into our teaching. Why can’t we just include Black history into all of our curriculum, not just one month out of the year?

Here’s why: Because we don’t. We never do. In the same way we have to say, “Black Lives Matter,” because they quite plainly do not matter enough in America, we need Black History Month. 

Representation matters, not just a little bit, but a whole lot. How better to combat stereotypes? 

How do I know a Black woman can be a doctor? Because I was delivered into this world by one. How do I know that a Black man can be an artist who can convey suffering and joy through painting? Because I was educated by one. How do I know a Black man could be president? Because I was led by one. 

I can’t be the only teacher/human/mother out there who feels discouraged about our future. Celebrating the successes of the contributions of all Americans is one way we can both acknowledge the truth of our history and look forward to the future with hope. 

Here are some ways to participate in Black History Month as a cross-curricular teacher:

  • Write warm ups that include discussion questions about Black history.
  • Find resources on TPT that are cross-curricular, such as engineering design challenges and writing prompts. Search, “Black history month” plus your content area to find great resources created by teachers, for teachers. 
  • Read diverse books in your classroom that include Black characters in a variety of roles
  • Read books that help educate you as an educator of ALL kids! I highly recommend The Innocent Classroom, but there are many new books out there that can support you as a learner and educator.
  • Integrate labs or non-fiction readings into your planned curriculum in February. Websites like Newsela or Actively Learn provide leveled articles for students of all ages. 

What are ways you add cross-curricular activities to your content area during Black History Month? Add a comment to share!

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