Each year since 1926, Black History Month has existed to call attention to certain issues and accomplishments of the Black community. Originally called Negro History Week when first established by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) continues the celebration of Black History Month today. As ASALH states, Dr. Woodson never meant to confine the study of Black history to one week or one month a year, and neither should we.
As a global educator, you can build students’ global competencies as you explore this year’s Black History Month theme, Black Resistance. The throughline of resistance to oppression and injustice is seen throughout American history. Skills like critical thinking, empathy, and global connection can be developed through thoughtful study and reflection of this history and the contributions of Black Americans to our society.
At Participate Learning, we hope this February is a starting point or a continuation of studies already taking place in your classroom all year long. Study of the Black experience in America involves understanding suffering and struggle as well as accomplishments, successes, and joys that are equally a part of this experience.
Build critical thinking by studying history
Global leaders look at the world with a critical eye, questioning assumptions and digging below the surface. They draw logical and fair conclusions based on evidence and can explain their thinking.
Help students build critical thinking skills through the theme of Black Resistance in American history. As Dr. Kenneth Greenberg, professor emeritus of history at Suffolk University, points out, resistance to enslavement touched every aspect of Black life right up through the Civil War. This presents opportunities to study forms of resistance, such as practicing religion or the networks formed to help slaves escape, to expand students’ view of the past.
Dr. Greenberg highlights the theme of resilience and flourishing of Black culture during this time period, in spite of the brutality and suffering enslaved people endured. It is important to celebrate that resilience while acknowledging the awful truths of slavery.
Build empathy through immersive experiences
Global leaders are able to see things from other people’s perspectives. They withhold judgment and try to understand what leads people to act, feel, or think in certain ways.
You can create powerful learning experiences for your students by helping them empathize with what life may have been like during the American Civil Rights Movement. Black activists and white allies fought for equality and an end to segregation during this time. Their resistance under unjust treatment ushered in a new era of greater protection for human and civil rights in the U.S.
Build your students’ empathy through these immersive learning experiences from the American Civil Rights Museum. Help them step into the shoes of activists who were conducting sit-ins and taking part in bus boycotts during the 1950s and ’60s. Have students hear firsthand stories of Black activists fighting against voter suppression and breaking barriers in medicine, science, and the military.
Build students’ connection to the world by studying current events
Global leaders feel a deep connection to the world. They celebrate the interconnectedness of all people and cultures and take responsibility for making the world a better place, working together for a better tomorrow.
By studying current forms of resistance against oppression and inequality, you can empower your students to make their community and the world a better place. Learn about the Black Lives Matter movement, how it started, and the throughline of this resistance movement to those of the past.
Learning for Justice has resources for students at every grade level so you can seek solutions to injustice together. Ask students how they want to get involved, or are already involved, in making your community a safer, more just place for everyone. Then, take action on these issues with your class or your school.
For more classroom ideas, see our tips for teaching global leaders during Black History Month. To learn more about developing global competencies in students, download Participate Learning’s profile of a global leader.