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Teaching resources for Black History Month

Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes

February marks the beginning of Black History Month, an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans, and when we celebrate and acknowledge their contributions 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.

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Educator spotlight
Free teaching resources
Black films focused on education
Other media resources

Educator spotlight

Educator Marva Collins revolutionized education for Black youth. Frustrated with the public school system, Marva rebelled and started her own school with just $5,000. 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.

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.

Watch her story in the 1981 film on YouTube. If you’ve ever sought to improve the quality of education, learn from Marva Collins’ successes, and continue to share her story.

Free teaching resources

Grades K-5:

  • Access free printable posters highlighting Black scientists and major scientific advancements. Use these talking points to help guide in-person and/or virtual discussions.
  • Incorporate art, play-acting, writing and dance with this list of 34 Black History Month Activities, published by WeAreTeachers.

Grades 5-8:

  • Through discussion, questioning strategies, and storytelling, students can learn about how civil rights activist Rosa Parks fought to bring about justice and equality.
  • Use these resources to teach about the ‘Phenomenal Woman’ that was Maya Angelou. Poet, activist, writer, singer, professor: share her poetry to teach students about her legacy and resiliency.
  • Teach your students about MLK’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech as a visual text. Have students think about why the speech was such a defining moment in the Civil Rights Movement and explain their analysis through illustrations.
  • Allow students to explore and discuss the history and context around Juneteenth. This lesson includes the history of racial injustice, the Civil War, and the modern significance of Juneteenth (and its long-term impact).

Grade 9-12:

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

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

The Hate you Give (PG-13) – Based on the book by Angie Thomas, 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 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.

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. This film is great to watch with high school students, and provides countless opportunities to analyze and discuss.

Not sure how to incorporate film into your lesson plan?
Use film in the same way you would teach literature; 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.

Additional media resources to increase understanding




For even more inclusive books, check out Marley Dias’ comprehensive list of 1,000 Black Girl Books


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

While February is a great time to focus on Black history, it’s a topic that should be incorporated all year round. 7.4 million American public school students are Black, with another 2.2 million that are biracial. These students deserve to see themselves represented in the classrooms: in the books they read, stories told, and history taught. Take this month as an opportunity to reset and incorporate all perspectives into your lesson plans.

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First day checklist

This unique list of free activities and resources will keep your students engaged and occupied if you finish early.