Black History Month Lessons: Mirrors & Windows in Education
The Classroom

Black History Month Lessons: Windows & Mirrors

Newsela Editorial
Jan 18, 2024

Black History Month is a time to celebrate Black Americans in our country’s history. It’s a time to share stories of Black resilience, reinvention, creativity, adventure, and innovation. But how can you be sure that you’re accurately and honestly sharing Black History Month lessons and information about the Black experience with your students? By choosing the right resources.

We’ve curated content, activities, and text sets for all our subject products that amplify Black voices and help students see the world through their eyes, in their own words. For some students, these resources provide authentic windows into the lived experiences of others. For others, they provide mirrors to reflect their lived experiences. Discover how you can create these experiences with each of our subject products:

Discover today’s Black history makers with Newsela Lite

Each week between Sunday, January 21, and Sunday, February 25, we’re sharing stories of current Black history events in the making on Newsela Lite! Log in or sign up for your free Newsela Lite account to browse the latest content and share selections with your students.

Discover Black history with Newsela Social Studies

Bring Black History to life in your classroom with these curated social studies lessons:

Resistance and liberation

Uncover how Black Americans have used resistance to achieve liberty through the years and establish their own cultural identity in the United States:

  • Learn about New York City’s “kidnapping club” and why it meant freedom in the North wasn’t always free.

  • Hear stories from some of the first Black students at integrated schools in Virginia about their life-changing experiences.

  • Discover the history of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta and its significance in Black history from Martin Luther King Jr. to today’s political climate.

Black Music from resistance to empowerment 

Explore the Black experience through song and discover how all types of Black-influenced music—like gospel, soul, and rap—signify cultural empowerment:

  • Learn about the history of Black music and its close ties to activism, protest, and justice.

  • Explore how popular artists like Beyonce and Kendrick Lamar are winning awards and shaping modern-day Black culture with their music.

  • Step into the National Museum of African American Music in Nashville and see how its exhibits pay tribute to past and present Black artists.

Being seen—Black artists and writers

Beyond music, Black creatives have influenced other areas of culture through writing, art, and fashion. Learn more about the contributions of great Black artists and writers with this text set:

  • See a visual history of Black hairstyles through the years and discover how and why people across the country are working to eliminate hair discrimination in schools and workplaces.

  • Learn about historical and current Black female cartoonists and illustrators and see the perspectives they bring to comics and graphic novels.

  • Discover what made publishing companies reevaluate their book selections and why the push to publish more works from diverse authors matters.

Trailblazing Black women

Look at Black history through a tailored lens by exploring our “Trailblazing Women” text set:

  • Explore Shirley Chisholm’s historic 1972 presidential campaign, making her the first Black woman and Black American overall to seek the office.

  • Learn about NASA’s Katherine Johnson, a research mathematician who helped the United States become contenders in the 1960s “Space Race.”

  • See how entertainer Josephine Baker fought against Nazi Germany and other Axis powers during World War II as a French spy.

Black History Month quotes of the day

Help set the scene when discussing topics of Black history from the influential leaders who made it. Select a quote of the day from different periods with this text set:

  • Visit the Antebellum Period with quotes from Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth.

  • Look back at the Progressive Era with quotes from Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois.

  • Travel through the Great Depression and Civil Rights Movement eras with quotes from Martin Luther King Jr. and Daisy Bates.

  • Hear from modern-day Black leaders like President Barack Obama and Shirley Chisholm.

Read the best of Black authors with Newsela ELA

See the world through the eyes of some of the most influential Black authors, poets, and artists with our curated Black History Month ELA text sets:

Books by Black authors 

Help students see themselves and explore the experiences of others with novel studies like:

Black voices in poetry

Dive into the Black experience through rhythm and rhyme with poetry selections like: 

  • When I Rise Up” by Georgia Douglas Johnson

  • The Black Queen” by Carrie Law Morgan Figgs

  • As I Grew Older” by Langston Hughes

  • children do” by Alyssa Gaines

  • We Wear The Mask” by Paul Laurence Dunbar

Black writers of the past

Help students build background knowledge about some of the most iconic Black authors in history and the worlds they lived in with our “Celebrating Black Writers of the American Literary Tradition” text set:

  • Meet Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson and learn about his portrayals of the lives and experiences of working-class Black Americans.

  • Discover the life and legacy of writer, poet, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou and how her memoir made her the first Black woman with a nonfiction national bestseller.

  • Learn about writer and civil rights activist James Baldwin, who broke barriers with his literature by discussing ideas on both race and social issues.

Black writers of today

Learn about how Black authors, poets, and artists from the past helped influence a new generation of creatives with our “Celebrating Black Writers at Work Today” text set:

  • Meet comic writer David F. Walker and learn about the year he spent studying the life of Frederick Douglass to write a graphic novel about his life.

  • Discover how poet Amanda Gorman became the nation’s first National Youth Poet Laureate.

  • Learn about YA author Angie Thomas and how her books like “The Hate U Give” and “On the Come Up” focus on topics teens care about and reflect the experience of being young and Black in today’s culture.

Research the Harlem Renaissance

Kick off Black History Month with a research project about the Harlem Renaissance. Have students explore this cultural and intellectual revival of Black American music, literature, art, and inquiry by researching and considering questions like:

  • What factors led to the Harlem Renaissance?

  • Who were the key figures in the movement?

  • What does the poetry from this era show and share about America? 

Meet Black scientists with Newsela Science

Help students see the impact Black people made and continue to make on the scientific community with these curated Black History Month resources:

Black inventors and scientists

There isn’t an area of science that hasn’t benefited from the contributions of Black scientists. Learn more about their discoveries and achievements with our “Black Barrier Breakers: Inventors and Scientists” text set:

  • Meet astronauts like Dr. Mae C. Jemison and Robert Lawrence Jr. and see how they were trailblazers for Black scientists in space.

  • Learn about the life and legacy of inventor George Washington Carver, who developed over 100 products, like plastics and gasoline, from peanut crops.

  • Discover the work theoretical physicist James Gates is doing to explain complex scientific ideas in a way that everyone can understand.

Black excellence in STEM

 See how Black people are changing the world through STEM in roles like:

  • Planetary geophysicist

  • Meteorologist in charge

  • Robot designer

  • Thermal systems engineer

  • Urban planner

Have students explore these and other career paths through the eyes of real people making a difference. Then have them brainstorm other STEM careers that they may want to pursue when they’re older.

Go further with your Black History Month lessons

We hope these resources make it easier for you to start engaging, reflective, and thoughtful conversations in your class this February to recognize and celebrate all the richness that Black History Month has to offer. But more importantly, we hope it helps your students see themselves mirrored in these articles and stories and provides windows into the lives of others with different experiences.

To help take your Black History Month lessons even further, check out our literature staff picks and discover how to take an inquiry-based approach when teaching Black history in your classroom.

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