Every year, Americans recognize February as Black History Month. The month is dedicated to recognizing the achievements of African Americans and celebrating the role they have played in the history of the United States.
The Origins of Black History Month
Black History Month, also known as National African American Month, has been recognized by all U.S. Presidents since 1976. Canada also recognizes Black History Month each February, while countries such as the United Kingdom and the Netherlands celebrate in October.
In the United States, Black History Month traces its start back to 1915, The organization that is now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History was founded by historian Carter Woodson and minister Jesse Moorland.
Just over a decade later, the first Negro History Week was observed in 1926. The second week of February was chosen for the observance in honor of the birthdays of two men who played a substantial role in ensuring the rights and freedoms of African Americans, Abraham Lincoln, and Frederick Douglass.
This first event gave birth to what we now know as Black History Month. In 1976, Gerald Ford became the first president to officially proclaim the February observance. Every U.S. president since has followed suit. Each year, the achievements of African Americans are recognized with a designated theme. The theme for 2018 is African Americans in Times of War.
Ways to Celebrate Black History Month
Help your students celebrate Black History Month with these ideas:
- Learn about the contributions African Americans have made in American history and society. Choose one African American to study in-depth.
- Learn about Civil Rights activists such as Martin Luther King Jr. or Rosa Parks.
- Learn about important moments in the Civil Rights movement.
- Read biographies about influential African Americans or popular books by black authors.
- African Americans have been instrumental in the development of several music genres and styles of dance. Learn about some of these such as jazz, blues, hip-hop, or swing.
- Look for a local venue, such as a history museum, to learn about African American leaders and history related to your state or town.
- If you live near a site that played a pivotal role in African American history, go visit it.
- Watch a movie or documentary that relates to the topic.
You can also use this free printables set to introduce your students to influential African Americans.
Famous Firsts Vocabulary
Print the PDF: Famous Firsts Vocabulary Sheet
Help your students begin to understand the significance of the role African Americans have played in U.S. history and culture with this Famous Firsts worksheet. Students should use the internet or a reference book to look up each person listed in the word bank in order to match them to their correct contribution.
Famous Firsts Wordsearch
Print the PDF: Famous Firsts Word Search
Continue to familiarize your students with influential African Americans using this word search puzzle. Each name can be found among the jumbled letters in the puzzle. As your student locates each name, see if he can recall that person's accomplishment.
Famous Firsts Crossword Puzzle
Print the PDF: Famous Firsts Crossword Puzzle
Use this crossword puzzle to help students review the achievements of these ten African American men and women. Each clue describes an accomplishment that corresponds with a name from the word bank.
Famous Firsts Alphabet Activity
Print the PDF: Famous Firsts Alphabet Activity
Young students can review the names and accomplishments of famous African Americans and practice their alphabetizing skills at the same time. Students will put the names in correct alphabetical order on the blank lines provided.
Older students can practice alphabetizing by last name and writing the names in last name first/first name last order.
Famous Firsts Challenge
Print the PDF: Famous Firsts Challenge
After your students have spent some time learning about famous African Americans and have completed the previous activities, use this Famous First Challenge worksheet as a simple quiz to see how much they remember.
Famous Firsts Draw and Write
Print the PDF: Famous Firsts Draw and Write Page
Use this Draw and Write page for students to draw a Famous Firsts related picture and write about their drawing. Alternately, they may wish to use it as s simple report form to write about another influential African American about whom they've learned.