During Black History Month, communities across the country commemorate the history of people of African descent in America and pay tribute the many achievements of Black men and women. But perhaps the most important community members to get involved in this annual celebration? Our children.
Today’s need for greater racial equity and inclusion requires kids to be exposed to diversity at a young age. To uplift all voices that have had an impact on our country, it is critical that Black history is studied and celebrated—not just in February, but throughout the entire year. African American history is American history, and when kids understand the fuller picture of history, it will also help them understand the fuller picture of today.
We were lucky enough speak with two educators from the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture—Anna Forgerson Hindley, director of early childhood education and Candra Flanagan, director of teaching and learning—to get their tips on teaching children about Black History Month. Here are the facts to get your started, plus creative ways to celebrate as a family.
When Is Black History Month 2022?
Black History Month is traditionally observed during the month of February. The theme of Black History Month 2022 is Black Health and Wellness.
Why Is Black History Celebrated in February?
In 1926, historian Carter G. Woodson, founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, established Negro History Week to promote the accomplishment and achievements of Black people. He chose the week of February that corresponds with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. Negro History Week has expanded to become an observation and celebration throughout the month of February.
Understanding the Black History Month Colors
Interestingly enough, there are no official colors for the annual observation of Black History Month. Often people or organizations will use the colors of the Pan-African (or Afro-American) flag during the month though. The colors of this flag are red, black, and green.
The colors’ significance were articulated by the Universal Negro Improvement Association in the 1920’s and have been recently updated by the organization. The color red symbolizes the blood that unites all people of Black African ancestry and shed for liberation; the color black symbolizes Black people, whose existence as a nation, though not a nation-state, is affirmed by the existence of the flag; and the color green symbolizes the abundant natural wealth of Africa.
Black History Month Activities to Do with Kids
Get Creative with an Art Project
Make a Handprint Heart Sandbox Academy encourages an activity that honors the beauty of different skin colors and diversity. Using construction paper in various skin tones, trace your child’s hand multiple times and cut it out. Cut a large heart out of butcher paper. Glue the hands in the shape of a heart using the butcher paper as a guide. As a final step, make a wreath with your child’s handprints to celebrate diversity.
Experiment with Eggs Heather Aulisio, M.ED, education consultant at Mom Loves Best, believes an egg activity can easily and effectively help you talk about Black History Month with kids who are early elementary age or younger. Children view two eggs—one white and one brown. When cracked open, they see the egg is the same on the inside, regardless of the egg’s color on the outside. This is a wonderful way to lead to learning about people with different skin colors and backgrounds.
Create a Collage Children of all ages love to create collages. Using magazines, the internet, books, or newspapers, allow children to cut out, position, and paste images of African American influencers on a piece of poster paper. After viewing clips and reading stories about each figure, children can also look for other items of significance and arrange and glue them near each person.
Cook a Special Dinner Together
Author Sandye Zdanwic and teacher Sarah Miller recommend researching and cooking traditional cuisines from predominantly Black countries. Families may enjoy cooking a meal together and exploring a variety of traditional African dishes from South Africa, Nigeria, Haiti, Jamaica, and traditional Southern America.
Look at maps and discuss where different spices and certain specialty dishes come from. Parents and kids can work together to choose recipes, shop for ingredients, and even prepare the food. Talking about the histories of these dishes also offers a great dinner conversation with your children, and it’s a unique way to teach kids important life skills about cooking.
Volunteer or Donate as a Family
Consider donating funds to national organizations—like Black Lives Matter, Equal Justice Initiative, or Center for Policing Equity—or local organizations in your area dedicated to addressing inequality. Evite Donations makes it really easy to create a virtual fundraiser.
Read a Book That Celebrates Black History
There are many children’s books that celebrate Black history in ways kids of all ages can understand. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Carter Reads the Newspaper by Deborah Hopkinson
- A is for All the Things You Are by Anna Forgerson Hindley
- Come Look With Me: Discovering African American Art for Children by James Haywood Rolling, Jr.
- A Child’s Introduction to African American History by Jabari Asim
- I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James
- Undefeated By Kwame Alexander
- Heart and Soul by Kadir Nelson
- Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson
Watch a Series Together
Put screen time to good use this February by carving out one night a week to watch an episode from one of these series for kids that explore Black culture:
- Cue up the online read-aloud videos from Sankofa Read Alouds on YouTube
- View the Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices series on Netflix
- Watch Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum on PBS, especially the episodes on George Washington Carver, Zora Neale Hurston, Jackie Robinson, Maya Angelou, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Thurgood Marshall, Wilma Rudolph, Arthur Ashe, Jesse Owens, and Ella Fitzgerald.
More Educational Resources for Teaching Kids Black History
You can also incorporate more of the school lessons that matter most into your child’s day. Luckily, there are many online resources for parents and teachers alike, from downloadable worksheets to interactive activities, focused on Black history. Here are a few of our favorite places to find them:
- National Museum of African American History and Culture, Smithsonian Institution: Talking About Race, Early Childhood Education, and Teaching and Learning
- Utilize educator resources from Teaching for Change, an organization that encourages teachers, parents, and students to question and re-think the world inside and outside their classrooms, build a more equitable, multicultural society, and become active global citizens.
- Because of Them We Can, a campaign created by Eunique Jones as a way to share Black history and the culture’s promising future through images. It also refutes stereotypes and builds self-esteem, confidence, and inclusion in children.