Black History – Free Educator Resources, Lesson Plans, and Stories

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*Swing recommends that substitute teachers get all outside teaching resources approved by the school prior to sharing with students.

February is Black History Month, a time when we celebrate and acknowledge the contributions made by African-Americans to American history. 

Whether you are helping to execute lesson plans, or seeking ways to increase your own knowledge, below, we share ways to explore Black History Month, and highlight the contributions of African American educators.

Educator Highlight: MARVA COLLLINS


Educator Marva Collins was that revolutionized education for Black youth. Through her work, she PROVED what that inner-city black youth could be educated just the same as their White counterparts. Frustrated with the public school system, Marva rebelled and started her own school with $5,000. There she succeeded in growing her school, and garnered the success and data to prove that all students can learn…it just depends on how you approach educating them.

Marva turned down National appointments from Presidents Regan and Bush to focus on growing her education practice. We are spotlighting Marva Collins to honor her contributions to education, and motivate fellow educators working to positively impact students. Whether you are a full-time educator, substitute teacher, school administrator, or District leader, there are countless lessons we can learn from Marva’s approach to educational excellence. 

Marva’s story can be seen from the 1981 film, featuring Cicely Tyson and a young Morgan Freeman. If you have ever sought to improve the quality of education, I strongly encourage you to learn from Mrs. Collins’ successes, and share in learning her story. 


View Film (free on YouTube)


Free Black History Lesson Plans and Activities


  • Grades K-12: Incorporate art, play-acting, writing and dance with this list of 34 Black History Month Activities, published by WeAreTeachers.

  • Grades K-8: Access free printable posters highlighting Black scientists and major scientific advancements. Use these talking points to help guide in-person and/or virtual discussions!

  • Grades 8-12: Everfi has created free lesson plans, video content, and curriculum guides around Black History. You have to sign up to access the content, but account creation is free. If you’re in need of free lesson plan content, Everfi has many other great resources.

  • Grades 9-12: Keep students engaged with conversations about how race influences current events. Explore the Black Lives Matter movement and have discussions about what an equitable recovery looks like as we fight to overcome the damage caused by COVID-19.

  • Grades 9-12: Six complete lesson plans to help discuss race and inclusion. Access high school level curriculum, complete with worksheets, resources and discussion guides.

  • For Teachers: If you’re new to discussing race with students, start with the Anti-Defamation League’s guide on talking to young people about race and racism.


Black Films with Education as a Theme:


City of God (R) Based in Brazil, Spanish spoken film. This true story follows a young boy growing up in the slums of Brazil, and through his love for photography, he fights to escape and change the dangers his community faces. 

The Hate you Give (PG-13) This film follows Starr Carter, a 16 year-old grappling with the experiences of a high school student…and the death of her friend. As Starr fights for what is right, the story seems eerily relevant, as a police shooting captures the attention of the nation. Rated PG-13.

Hidden Figures (PG) If your students have ever asked “when they will ever use what they learn in math class”, then it’s time to watch this film. Hidden figures covers the work of NASA in the 1960’s as we first began to explore space, and highlights the role key African American women made in our first journey’s into space.

Lean on Me (PG-13) This classic film is based on the story of Joe Louis Clark, a real life inner-city high school principal in Paterson, New Jersey, whose school is at risk of being shut down, unless students improve their test scores. Sound familiar? Test scores still play a central role in the debate surrounding public education, and provide a great opportunity to discuss with students.

Higher Learning (R) This is another CLASSIC. If you haven’t seen it, please watch. Set in the 90’s on a college campus, this film explores the role race plays in the American education experience. This is perfect for any Math, Reading, ELA, or history class, and provides countless opportunities for in-depth discussion.

The Great Debaters (PG-13)This Film profiles young Black college students through a fast-paced and exciting story that takes place in the South. Denzel provides a FIRE performance…as always. This film is great to watch with high school students, and provides countless opportunities to analyze and discuss.

When they See Us (Series) Available on Netflix, this series covers the real-life story of the Central Park 5. In 1989 a jogger was assaulted and raped in New York’s Central Park. Subsequently, five young black boys were charged and jailed. This limited series spans a quarter of a century and covers their fight to prove their innocence.

Lesson Plan Ideas for Film: You can use film similar to literature. Use these films to explore key literary themes, historical content, and character development. Ensure that films meet school-specific standards, and draw on English Language Arts lesson plans to generate follow-up discussion. Check with your schools to ensure the films you are showing are allowed to be shown to students. 



BOOK: “Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

BOOK: “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Tatum

BOOK: “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindnessby Michelle Alexander

MOVIE: Selma directed by Ava DuVernay

MOVIE: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks directed by George C. Wolfe (based on true life novel)

MOVIE: Judas and the Black Messiah – HBO Max

DOCUMENTARY: 13th Netflix

DOCUMENTARY: I Am Not Your Negro Netflix

SERIES: Amend: The Fight for America – Netflix



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