February is Black History Month. It’s only 28 days long and we’re already on day three, so let’s cut the niceties and get right to it: It’s too easy to let Black History Month pass by without bringing it into the classroom in the way that children deserve. Or to read one picture book about Rosa Parks and pat yourself on the back for doing “enough”.
Here’s the truth I’m ashamed to admit: I’m an educator, and I spent years avoiding and ignoring Black History Month.
I told myself that I had so many reasons. It made me uncomfortable; I couldn’t do it justice; there was no time; it wasn’t my job; I had no meaningful experiences with it when I was a kid, and I turned out fine. Or maybe I assumed that the history shared with children in the classroom was complete and well-rounded and never thought to question that. And then, once I knew better, I felt guilty and uneasy and didn’t know what to do with it. So I didn’t do anything. Those were excuses, and I’m finished making them. My students deserve better, and I will do better.
I bring this up not because Black History Month is about me, in any capacity. But I think that my experience is representative of how many educators – especially white educators – approach Black history, during February and all year round. Nobody wants to talk about it, how uncomfortable and painful it can be to teach the mistakes of the past. It’s complicated. The lessons aren’t written yet. Sometimes students get upset, and often, parents complain. The list goes on: We can create a million excuses to avoid covering the complicated and painful truth of American history, but it won’t change the fact that this is why we became educators in the first place: Our students deserve the full picture. The truth. The knowledge of our shared history so that we can create a better future. So let’s show up and do the work.
My goal when learning and teaching about the history, experiences, struggles, victories, and futures of people that are different than my own is not to tell their story with my own voice, but to listen, learn, and amplify.
I wish that Black History Month didn’t have to exist. I wish that the full story of American history – the mistakes, the cruelty, the victories, the amazing inventions and contributions, the truth – was taught to every student, every single day. As Donalynn Miller said recently, “I am always happy to share the websites and lists I know, but if the only time you’re looking for books about notable Black Americans or books with Black characters is during Black History Month, a list isn’t going to cut it.” It’s frustrating. But until Black history is given the space, time, and gravity that it deserves, we’ll keep highlighting Black History Month and working to make it as meaningful, full, and rich as we can.
Below, you’ll find a list of resources that have helped me to learn about the history and importance of Black History Month, and to look past the generic and uninspiring lessons that I had as a kid (if I had any). Many of my resources live on social media, because that’s where my I connect the most with the education community. Instagram is my platform of choice, so you’ll see a lot of links for Instagram profiles in the social media category. If you’d like to follow what I find in real time (and see things that likely won’t make it to the blog), I’ll be sharing in my feed and my stories all month long. Beneath the social media list, you’ll see links to education articles, resources, and lessons. I’ll also be updating this list throughout the month of February, so check back.
Let me be perfectly clear: As a white woman, this isn’t my story to tell. I don’t know how to correctly teach and honor Black History Month, and have no personal expertise to share. But I’m ready and willing to learn, get vulnerable, and do the work. I have the privilege and responsibility of sharing Black history – which is American history – with my students, and I take that seriously. I know and care enough to do my research, and I’m happy to use this platform to share the expertise of others.
It’s Black History Month, and it’s a big deal. Let’s listen, learn, and amplify.
- blackhistoryforkids. Facts, photos, videos, and all kinds of great stuff targeted at kids.
- The Conscious Kid. I’ve shared links from the Conscious Kid before, and I’m continuously floored by this team’s brave and thoughtful content. They’re honoring Black History Month in their trademark style, and I am HERE FOR IT. I love their Instragram feed, but if you’re not a user, here’s their website.
- blackhistory. “because there is more to our history than egypt and slavery.”
- Readlikearockstar. Educator Naomi O’Brien must be superwoman, because the amount of incredible content that she shares is unreal. Her profile states that she specializes in “engaging and culturally responsive ideas for K-3”, and that’s a humble understatement. You can find more from Naomi O’Brien here.
- BlackOwnedUS. Change your mindset, change your teaching. Vote with your wallet.
- UrbanIntellectuals. “We produce culturally relevant educational products to educate, engage, and empower generations.” On This Day in History is my favorite!
- firstknowthyself. Black history, past and present. There’s so much good news to share!
- Blackgirlsteach. Read, learn, share.
- ReggieReads. Black history, Black future, Black literature. If you’re not going above and beyond to bring books by Black authors into your TBR pile, you’re missing out – and having an impact on the kids that watch what you read. Don’t know where to start? ReggieReads posts absolutely fabulous book reviews focused on Black authors, ranging from classic to contemporary.
- ReadbyRodKelly. More fantastic book reviews focused on Black authors, with an added emphasis on LGBTQ lit. Also, the best InstaStories! What you read matters. Put good stuff in your brain, and good stuff will come back out.
- DiverseClassics. The conversation about what denotes a “classic” generally gives me a migraine, but not from DiverseClassics. Lovers of great lit, look no further. Find more info here, including 100 Classics by People of Color.
- Raising Luminaries. A favorite resource of mine all year long, I’m excited to see what Raising Luminaries brings to the table for Black History Month.
- WhiteGirlLearning. “Learning everything I can from BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People Of Color) about history, the world, & myself.” That’s a mission I can get behind.
- TheTutuTeacher. Great resources, questions, conversations, and book recommendations from a fantastic, funny, and generous kindergarten teacher who is a woman of color.
- MrsRusselsRoom. Invaluable advice and perspective from a veteran teacher, passionate about community and inclusivity, who is a woman of color. I have learned so much from her straightforward
Education articles, resources, and lessons:
- 28 Cool & Surprising Black History Facts for Every Day of the Month (I LOVED this article, and you’ll see a new fact displayed in the hallway outside the library every day this month.)
- 20 Children’s Books for Black History Month!
- Black History Month is a chance for white parents to learn how to talk about racism
In our library:
- Why Do We Celebrate Black History Month? A Message to our Students, from a Black Educator and a White Educator
- Finding our Color Words using Honeysmoke
- 50 Books we Loved for a Skin Tone Picture Book Walk
- We honor Black history by…
- Who said that?
- Oh yeah! Exploring Black History through Jazz
- Mae Among the Stars
- The Girl with a Mind for Math
- Misty Copeland’s Firebird
- Barack Obama’s Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to my Daughters
- Black History is American History: A Month of Daily Facts
- Important African American Men and Women (printable slideshow)
What are your favorite Black History resources? I’d love to add them to my list.