How Should Schools Acknowledge Black History Month? (2024)

During my first year of teaching, I remember quite vividly the feeling of being forgotten. Februaryrolled around and, strangely I might add, no one said one word about the fact that it was Black History Month. No one! Not a parent, not a student, no administrator or fellow teachers … no one. As a black person living in the United States, who is always very aware of the realities surrounding race in this country, I was shocked and even hurt that an entire school would overlook this important time.

Over the years, I’ve found that there are varying degrees of celebration of Black History Month in schools. Y’all, I have seen the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful. So, here are three things schools should avoid and three things they should definitely do during Black History Month.

What schools should avoid during Black History Month

1. Not celebrating at all

More common than you would think, many schools across the country do nothing for Black History Month. In my case, the school that ignored Black History Month had so few students of color, you could count them and the two black teachers on one hand. Honoring and celebrating Black History Month is for everyone, no matter their race.

Many schools do celebrate Black History Month. For 28 days. In February. And that’s it. Black history isUS history. Martin Luther King deserves a place in your everyday curriculum, as do the Black Panthers and Ida B. Wells and Alvin Ailey. Ignoring or omitting these stories is, in a way, cheating history.

2. Shrinking our heroes

Look, I know many schools are trying their best in this department. I just want to offer an observation. Cutesy activities about Martin Luther King that don’t teach his true significance are shrinking a legend. I have some more news: He’s not the only black hero. And there are black heroes beyond Rosa Parks, Frederick Douglass, and Harriet Tubman. Students should also learn about Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael), Bayard Rustin, Ella Baker, Angela Davis, Medgar Evers, and so many more. All of those heroes are worth covering in your class, just as much as the “Mount Rushmore” of notable black figures that everyone already knows.

Don’t water down, sugarcoat, or tailor the narrative. Many times, we promote the nicely packaged stories of black history without considering the full story. Don’t get me wrong. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is beautiful, but if that is the only piece of oratory we focus on during Black History Month, we are shortchanging our students. We miss the chance to share equally powerful, radical statements from Malcolm X, Huey P. Newton, and Fannie Lou Hamer, and in doing so, present an incomplete narrative.

3. Dwelling on the suffering

Slavery, Jim Crow, systematic oppression, and racism are all issues that need to be addressed. It is important to engage students critically about these topics. To be sure, the suffering matters greatly. However, one of the things that schools do during Black History Month is place too heavy an emphasis on the sad, horrific details of the black experience. Black History Month should also be a celebration of art, culture, and innovation. There are ways to commemorate the struggle andcelebrate the triumph.

What schools should do during Black History Month

1. Acknowledge it

Doing something is better than doing nothing, even if you have to change your curriculum. For all those schools that are already making a real and earnest effort, thank you, that’s fantastic. If your school has nothing planned, now is the time to come up with a new tradition. It’s important to acknowledge Black History Month, even if it’s a small gesture. Plan a talent show or a poetry slam or a simple slide-show video. Step up and do something!

2. Put the focus on giving back

One of the common misconceptions about Black History Month is that we must have a fascinating and robust curriculum or nothing at all. Well, in addition to your program, or even in place of it, you can go out and serve. Help a black-owned business or a community center in a predominately black neighborhood. One of the greatest things I have seen a school do is get out and serve the community it seeks to honor.

3. Get creative

Last year, I witnessed an amazing school assembly during Black History Month. There were songs from Hamilton, dancing, and actors playing Elijah McCoy, Lewis Latimer, and Huey P. Newton! All the while, a student, positioned in front of the audience, painted on a large canvas a vibrant, multicolored portrait of the audience with the word Equality written on top. It was the most creative program I have ever seen. If your school is thinking outside of the box with great creativity, you are doing Black History Month right.

We’d love to know—what’s your take on how we celebrate Black History Month in schools?Come share inourWeAreTeachers Chat groupon Facebook.

P.S…Here are some Black History Month posters and activitiesyou might want to check out.

How Should Schools Acknowledge Black History Month? (1)

How Should Schools Acknowledge Black History Month? (2024)


How do you acknowledge Black History Month at school? ›

Celebrate: Highlight achievements and contributions, including pre-colonial history and profiles of contemporary figures your students will recognize from politics, education, pop culture, sports, or other areas. While historicizing is important, avoid focusing solely on slavery and Jim Crow.

Why is Black History Month important for students to acknowledge and celebrate? ›

Black History Month was created to focus attention on the contributions of African Americans to the United States. It honors all Black people from all periods of U.S. history, from the enslaved people first brought over from Africa in the early 17th century to African Americans living in the United States today.

How should Black History Month be remembered? ›

8 Ways to Honor Black History Month
  1. Black History Month has been celebrated in America since 1970. ...
  2. We as humans were created to learn. ...
  3. Museums are great ways to honor Black history. ...
  4. Black music changed the American music culture centuries ago. ...
  5. Nonprofits are funded year-round by people like you.
Feb 10, 2023

How do you celebrate Black history in the classroom? ›

Black History Month Activities for Kids
  1. Write About Famous Quotes From Black Americans. ...
  2. Set Up a Door Decorating Contest. ...
  3. Study the Civil Rights Movement & Segregation. ...
  4. Take Virtual Field Trips. ...
  5. Get to Know Local Black Americans. ...
  6. Read Books With Black Protagonists. ...
  7. Create Timelines of Important Moments in Black History.
Feb 10, 2023

Should schools be celebrate Black History Month? ›

During Black History Month, and beyond, it is vital to encourage equity in the classroom. We all play a role in ensuring students have a complete and accurate understanding of the past. Our country has a rich and diverse history, and it is a disservice to all learners to not teach them about the intricacies of this.

Why is Black history important in schools? ›

The class fosters cultural understanding. Learning about African American history allows students who are not African American to have a deeper understanding and appreciation for the contributions of African Americans to the world we live in today.

How do we honor Black History Month for kids? ›

Visit your local library. Local libraries often host free Black History Month events and activities for kids all month long. Some have book lists, movie nights, crafts and more. The New York Public Library also invites African American authors in to speak about their books.

How do you introduce Black History Month to students? ›


Be sure to include the classics as well as contemporary books that include African American, Afro Caribbean and African voices. 2. Read and discuss the literature as a whole class or create small group book clubs where each club reads a different book or collection together.

Why is Black History Month important? ›

This month-long observance in the US and Canada is a chance to celebrate Black achievement and provide a fresh reminder to take stock of where systemic racism persists and give visibility to the people and organizations creating change.

Why should we honor Black history? ›

It helps us understand the importance of our stories.

Black History Month is about sharing and celebrating the stories of countless men and women who made a difference in our world. Some achievements are noted more than others. But all of their stories reveal how they changed the world...and how we can, too.

What are the inspirational words for Black History Month? ›

"Each person must live their life as a model for others." "All I know is I've tried my best." "If there is no struggle, there is no progress." "You really can change the world if you care enough."

Who has the biggest impact on Black history? ›

These leaders have also had a significant impact in shaping the world we live in today.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. One of the most well-known civil rights leaders, Martin Luther King, Jr. ...
  • Rosa Parks. ...
  • Barack Obama. ...
  • Frederick Douglass. ...
  • oprah Winfrey. ...
  • Harriet Tubman. ...
  • Medgar Evers. ...
  • Jackie Robinson.
Mar 2, 2022

How do you explain Black History Month to students? ›

Black History Month means the appreciation and acknowledgement of Blackness and how it permeates all aspects of society. It's the recognition of people and a culture that transcends the racist and imperial formations of the United States. It is a celebration of Black men, women, nonbinary, trans, disabled folx.

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