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Teaching our kids to honor Black History 365 Days

Black History Month is an excellent time for reflection on the achievements of many African Americans. The most recent events have taught us that Black History Matters! This month can be a time for adults to teach kids and learn about Black history as well. Commonly, we hear Black people say we got the coldest and shortest month of the year when a black man founded Black history month. It started as Negro History Week and then became Black History Week, then later down the line a month. It was not created to be a conspiracy to deprive African Americans of a full month. Carter G. Woodson made it and chose February because it had Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas birthdays. Black history month was created to commemorate African Americans' achievements separate from agitation and the political side. Carter G. Woodson viewed Black history as an all-year affair, not a one-month affair. He encouraged schools to use Negro History Week to demonstrate what students learned all year.

Each year, a theme is given to Black history month. The 2021 article is "The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity." According to the Association for the Study of African American Life and History: The black family has been a topic of study in many disciplines—history, literature, the visual arts and film studies, sociology, anthropology, and social policy. Its representation, identity, and diversity have been reverenced, stereotyped, and vilified from the days of slavery to our own time. The black family knows no single location since family reunions and genetic-ancestry searches testify to the spread of family members across states, nations, and continents. Not only are individual black families diasporic, but Africa and the diaspora itself have been long portrayed as the black family at large. While the role of the black family has been described by some as a microcosm of the entire race, its complexity as the “foundation” of African American life and history can be seen in numerous debates over how to represent its meaning and typicality from a historical perspective—as a slave or free, as patriarchal or matriarchal/matrifocal, as single-headed or dual-headed household, as extended or nuclear, as fictive kin or blood lineage, as legal or common law, and as black or interracial, etc. A variation appears, as well, in discussions on the nature and impact of parenting, childhood, marriage, gender norms, sexuality, and incarceration. The family offers a rich tapestry of images for exploring the African American past and present.

Starting the conversation with kids about Black history can be easy. Ask them the question, “do you know how Black history month started?” Explain, “Each February, we have a Black history month celebration because Black history documents the lives of black people from the past to the present.” This will pique their interest, and you can start incorporating some learnings and teachings. I have discovered a few important ways to help teach our kids to celebrate all year:

  • Start with Africa and not slavery – History teaches us to focus on slavery, but Black history started in Africa. We have to teach our kids this critical fact.

  • Select a Black historian to study each week - Focus on one leader a month and learn something new about that historian weekly. My husband and I incorporate teachings when we eat dinner with the kids.

  • Travel: Travel to places that have historical black leaders in the center. Atlanta, Georgia, Washington, DC, and Birmingham, Alabama are just a few.

  • Transparency: Teach your kids that black history isn’t a ‘feel-good’ history. It’s essential to learn the truth about the history of African American people.

  • Incorporate other months – Months like Women’s history month can teach about women in Black history.

  • Read Books that focus on Black kids - Look for books that teach the importance of Black history. A good read is: Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?": A Psychologist Explains the Development of Racial Identity- By Beverly Daniel Tatum. Another great book is: The Story of Ruby Bridges - By Ruby Bridges

Most Black history celebrations will be socially distanced this year. A great way to learn from home is by watching a movie, series, or documentary.

Movies to watch with kids:


What it teaches kids: Voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965. Director: Ava DuVernay

When They See Us

What it teaches kids:

The ugly side of civil rights. Five teens from Harlem become trapped in a nightmare when they're falsely accused of a brutal attack in Central Park. Based on the true story.

Creator: Ava DuVernay


What it teaches kids:

Self-Defense. It is a dramatized account of the story of The Black Panther Party.


What it teaches kids:

Courage, ingenuity, and tenacity for women. It's a movie based on Harriet Tubman's life and escapes from slavery and transformation into one of America's greatest heroes, who freed hundreds of slaves and changed the course of history. Director: Kasi Lemmons

12 Years a Slave

What it teaches kids:

Slavery and the roots. A free black man is abducted and sold into slavery. Director: Steve McQueen

Lee Daniels The Butler

What it teaches kids:

Civil Rights Movement. A man named Cecil Gaines serves eight presidents during his tenure as a butler at the White House. Director: Lee Daniels

Malcolm X

What it teaches kids:

Influence and Change. Malcolm X was a controversial Black Nationalist leader, from his early life and career as a small-time gangster to his ministry as a member of the Nation of Islam. Director: Spike Lee


What it teaches kids:

The history of undefeated black sports legends. The movie focused on Muhammad Ali's triumphs and controversies between 1964 and 1974. Director: Michael Mann

Having our Say

What it teaches kids:

Racism, Sexism, and breaking glass ceilings. The movie tells the story of two sisters and how they broke barriers to become the first African American teachers in New York City. Sadie and Bessie Delany, two African-American (they preferred "colored") sisters who both lived past the age of 100. Director: Lynne Littman

Ways to demonstrate Black history learnings all year:

  • Racial Justice: Work toward racial justice and equity in your personal and work life. This demonstration will show your kids the ways in which they have the power to improve the lives of other black people.

  • Support Black-Owned businesses: We already know that minority-owned companies do not receive the funding and support as often as their white counterparts. Supporting Black-Owned businesses teaches kids that they can be entrepreneurs and tells them where they should be spending their dollars.

  • Volunteer: There are so many ways to volunteer your time and donate money

If your kids attend a school that does not celebrate Black History Month, hold the school leaders accountable to teach it during the month of February. Also, continuously teach your kids the importance of Black History.

Black History cannot be summarized in one month. Black history is a field of serious study in Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Carter G. Woodson’s teachings have made a lasting impression on the influence of many Historically Black Colleges and Universities. For example, At Howard University they are focused on Diaspora studies, a study of African descent people is a significant part of the campus. At Xavier University, African American studies are taught globally. They are an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary program that explores the experiences, ideas, and interactions of African descent people within the political, economic, and cultural history of the United States and on a transnational and global level.

The most important message is to educate yourself and work toward racial equity in February and every month beyond. This was the dream of Carter G. Woodson.


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