February is the month set aside to celebrate African-American History.
Begun in 1926 by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, a noted Harvard scholar, it was first organized as Negro History Week and slated to be held during the second week of February, since this was around the same dates as the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas, who had a profound effect, historically, upon the black community.
Dr. Woodson’s goal was to educate black youth, as well as those outside of their culture, about the positive contributions of black people to America. In 1976, it was decided to expand the celebration to an entire month, instead of trying to compress so much information into a mere week.
African-American/Black History Month has not been without its critics from both ends of the spectrum. There are some white people who resent what they believe is its “exclusivity” and they feel it is being forced upon them, while there are some black people who feel that black history ought to be properly weaved into basic American history, instead of being taught for one month and then ignored during the other eleven months of the year.
Whatever your take is on African-American/Black History Month, it does accomplish its mission of reminding all Americans that people of color have done some good things for America. There is often so much media attention on the negative actions of some black people that the unenlightened in our country generalize about the entire black community, based on this sometimes biased information. It’s important that we all be made aware that African-Americans have played a vital role in education, medicine, science, politics, literature, drama and fine arts, not just the fields of sports and music.
Some websites that may assist young people in learning more about African-American/Black History Month are:
Black History Month Biographies by Thomson Gale
There are sixty biographies of well-known African-Americans here, with comprehensive information on each of them. Included are people such as Ida B. Wells, Charles Drew, Rosa Parks, Wilma Rudolph, Muhammad Ali, Condoleeza Rice, Kanye West and more.
This is a good resource to use for school reports and projects on black cultural figures.
Black History Month Lesson Plans and Activities from The Teacher’s Corner
Classroom teachers will find this site extremely useful, because of the resources it offers for Black History Month activities. They can find lesson plans, project ideas, journal pages, word searches, word scrambles, links to related websites and the like. Activities are geared towards grades 3-8.
Enchanted Learning’s African-American History Resource Page
This is a good resource page for kids and for educators. It includes an African-American History timeline, a Great African-Americans Quiz, fill-in-the-blank activities, short activity books for both early and more advanced reading levels, information on African-American inventors and inventions and information on African-American women who made a difference. All can be printed out.
The Encyclopedia Britannica Guide to Black History
This website covers the range of Black History from the times of slavery up to the Civil Rights movement. It provides excellent use of multimedia materials, with photographs, film clips and recordings about notable black Americans and historical events. There are biographies, a timeline, important documents and meticulous descriptions of specific incidents, with learning activities and a student study guide provided.
The Faces of Science: African-Americans in the Sciences
This site provides information on several African Americans who have been prominent in the fields of engineering and the sciences. Categories include biochemists, biologists, chemists, computers, engineers, entomologists, geneticists, geologists, inventors, mathematicians, medicine, meteorologists, oceanographers, physicists, women scientists and zoologists. There are tons of folks I never even heard of before, so this site was pretty interesting. The biographies on each scientist are informative, but brief enough for them not to become boring.