top of page

Black History Lesson Plans For All Classrooms

Dear Future Teachers,

Welcome back! Last week Dear Future Teachers announced that for Black History Month, we will be posting resources to assist teachers in implementing Black History in the curriculum year-round. As we mentioned last week, Black History is U.S. History and should not be treated as an elective or optional part of the curriculum. To fully integrate Black history into the curriculum means including accurate and representative information throughout the entire school year. This means that we shouldn't focus solely on the stories that make us comfortable or are widely known, but also provide information on lesser known individuals and events that are integral to the history of the United States. Of course these lessons should be scaffolded based on grade level, so this week I've collected lesson plans or teaching activities for classrooms ranging from kindergarten through the 12th grade.

The books and teaching activities I have included in this week's post were collected through the Zinn Education Project. There are many downloadable teaching lessons for all kinds of topics and grade levels. The best part? The website registration is free!

Elementary School

Early elementary school students may enjoy picture books and class lessons that will help them digest the information! Some books for the elementary school classrooms include:

  • When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip-Hop by Laban Carrick Hill. This book talks about the beginnings of hip-hop in the U.S. and how it influenced aspects of life, such as social movements. If you're interested in purchasing this book, click the hyperlink here.

  • Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome. This picture book focuses on Harriet Tubman and the various influential roles she played throughout her lifetime. Beautifully illustrated and lyrically written, Before She Was Harriet is a great book to introduce to younger students. If you're interested in purchasing this book, click the hyperlink here.

Outside of books, elementary schoolers may benefit from activities such as role playing.

  • Educator Katharine Johnson on the Zinn Education Project had shared an activity to teach elementary schoolers about residential redlining. Katharine chose to teach about redlining through a role playing activity, where each student was assigned a role as homeowners, bankers, real estate agents, and more. Students were asked to reflect on their roles and identify the injustices they noticed, as well as why those injustices were occurring. To read more about the specific lesson plan, you can download Katharine Johnson's lesson here.

  • Another educator named Bob Peterson had developed a lesson for his 5th grade students discussing slavery and former U.S. Presidents. Many students had heard that early presidents had owned enslaved persons, which prompted questions about which presidents did contribute to slavery. Peterson took this opportunity to create a lesson where students brainstormed ways to find information related to their question, researched the presidents, and put together data on what they found. Peterson designed the lesson to incorporate math, reading, and history skills. Although many people may be uncomfortable critiquing U.S. Presidents this way, this activity allows students to think critically about a more realistic history of the U.S. based on student curiosity. To read more about the specific lesson plan, you can download Bob Peterson's lesson here.

Middle School

As students get a bit older, naturally they will be able to participate in more inquisitive discussions and activities.

  • Adam Sanchez shared a lesson on resistance, specifically about the different ways that enslaved people resisted the institution of slavery. This is a powerful lesson as it shows the brave and difficult work that enslaved individuals coordinated and implemented to resist enslavement. The lesson includes a mixer where students can role play and learn about 7 types of resistance, participate in discussion with their peers, and write poetry to honor the resistance they have learned about. More details about this lesson can be downloaded here.

  • Bill Bigelow developed a lesson plan for students to critically analyze the U.S. Constitution. This activity involves role play, but unlike in the original Constitutional Convention, students also have the opportunity to represent poor farmers, enslaved people, and other workers. This activity encourages students to take a more active role in reading the Constitution and understanding its social context. Download the lesson plan and materials here.

High School

At the high school level, students should be thinking critically and connecting what they learn across disciplines as well as to their own lives and communities. The three lesson plans I include below are designed to help students develop and utilize those skills.

  • Educator Linda Christensen designed series of activities to teach her students about the Tulsa Massacre, which is often left out of school curriculum. Students received background information on the event and how it connects to generational wealth. Then students were able to learn more about that night through various perspectives by role-playing. Students also had the chance to read primary sources and accounts from survivors of the incident, and create a plan for restitution for victims of the massacre. To learn more about the specific lesson plans, you can download the lesson here.

  • Bill Bigelow created a lesson plan that introduced school desegregation and the stories of the Little Rock Nine. In this lesson, students are shown a video giving an account of desegregation in schools, and students are encouraged to write down shocking or powerful moments throughout the film. Then, students are to create a piece of writing (a diary entry, poems, inner monologues) to represent how members of the Little Rock Nine might have felt when entering their new school. Students will also participate in a discussion about school segregation and parallels to current schools. Download the lesson here.

  • Adam Sanchez and Jesse Hagopian created a lesson to teach students about the Black Panther Party after finding scarce information on the BPP in textbooks or classroom materials. The BPP was often advertised as violent, yet did not mention the violence committed against the members of the BPP. This lesson gives more context behind the mission and goals of members of the BPP through a role playing mixer. To learn more about this lesson plan, and why it is important to teach, you can download lesson at this link.


As I mentioned earlier, you can find these lessons and more at Zinn Education Project for free! It's a great resource for teachers of any grade level, and it can help inspire more interactive classroom lessons. These lessons are not specific to Black History Month, but should be implemented throughout the year as appropriate. The lessons should be interwoven into curriculum and treated as importantly as the "regular" curriculum. Challenge yourself to cover content, even if you're slightly uncomfortable with sharing typically uncovered historical events. Students deserve to know more than one version of history, and lessons such as the ones I have selected create chances to critically think, ask questions, and engage with content in ways they might not have before.

If you have any lessons you have developed that you feel you want to share, please send me a message through the Content Form on my Home Page or via email at Remember to subscribe so you don't miss out on the exciting content we have coming up!

Much Love,

Emily B.

bottom of page