Black History Month in the Middle School Classroom

Many of these months or holidays honoring a group or person, like Black History Month, seem to fall on the shoulders of the ELA teacher. It is the easy way out because scholars can read a story or text by a particular author and then you’ve covered all your bases AND taught some multi-cultural history.

There are a few reasons why this is ineffective. One, it is a tired tradition of passing off these responsibilities to the ELA teacher. Two, there is a lot of repetition among teachers in who from Black History is studied.

Perhaps the most important point is that there is such a broad spectrum of historical figures to discuss. If you make it part of all subject areas, it emphasizes the importance of these months honoring a particular culture, race, or ethnicity for students.

Integrating Black History Content

Katherine Johnson

So what do you do? Beginning with Math, the first idea that comes to mind is the movie Hidden Figures. There are so many important African-American mathematicians who have made contributions to society.

As a homework project or taking a day to have students discuss these influential figures can easily be one way to push the content into the math classroom. Relating it back to pre-algebra and algebra concepts isn’t that much of a stretch either.

Mini-biographies on historical math figures would be a great way to promote literacy in the math classroom.

Here are some links to a few great lists of Black mathematicians to get you started.

The Black Heroes of Mathematics 10 Famous Black Mathematicians and Their Contributions The Black Female Mathematicians Who Sent Astronauts to Space

Madam C.J. Walker

Moreover, the same theory can be applied to the science classroom as well. It would be very easy to look at the contributions of famous Black scientists alongside the required standards.

15 Famous Black Scientists in History 31 Highly Influential African American Scientists Black Inventors and Pioneers of Science

Another great way to integrate Black History Month would be through the lens of art. How great would it be to study African American artists and then try to create art in a similar style? It sounds like a fun project. Here are a few sites devoted to African American artists to incite inspiration.

National Gallery of Art ART CYCLOPEDIA: African-American Artists Art by African Americans


Three Friends

I hope this article can spur you into action. There are so many amazing ways to integrate Black History Month into all classrooms. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Langston Hughes poetry and speeches by Martin Luther King Jr; but Black History is rich and vivid. It is a shame on us as teachers limiting it to the cannon. Students deserve to see history through many lenses.

Checkout these great resources for activities to use in your classroom during Black History Month.

20 Black History Month Activities for February and Beyond Black History Month Lessons and Resources, Grades 6-8 Black History Month Resources

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