Help Students Make the Most of Black History Month
October is Black History Month. For many schools, this means trotting out the same old presentations on Martin Luther King, Barack Obama and Rosa Parks. But, while these people have shaped history in undeniably important ways, there is so much more scope for widening students’ knowledge of such a vitally important subject area.
As many people have pointed out, one month isn’t enough to educate people on Black History, so getting students to research influential and pioneering people of colour within particular fields (Science, Technology, Business, Literature, Music, Art, and so on) and report back to the class is one way of accessing a wider range of knowledge.
Presentations can get a little dry though, so why not do what my school did and arrange for musicians and performers of colour to demonstrate their art, have a ‘soul food’ tasting event, or screen relevant films as part of the Black History Month celebrations. Creating a festival-like atmosphere is more likely to engage students and get a ‘buzz’ going – everyone likes a break from routine every now and again.
Another important role that Black History Month can play is in addressing misconceptions: there will be students who think it’s unfair that there’s no designated White History Month, for example. Creating a privilege checklist can be very eye-opening for some students, and there are some great resources available to help with this. Check out this free Black History Month Assembly.
Black History Month should ultimately help us to change our thinking for the long term, so do your bit as an educator to make sure you’ve got a good range of racial diversity in the topics you teach across your curriculum, not just October.
Black History Month is a great chance to educate, challenge and celebrate. And as teachers, that’s what we do best.