February is Black History Month and thanks to the founders and all the people who lift Black voices, we now celebrate Black people’s achievements throughout history and around the world.
Ever wonder why Black History Month is in February? In 1915 historian Carter G. Woodson co-founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. In 1926 the group declared the second week of February as “Negro History Week,” because the birthdays for abolitionist Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln are that week. In 1976, President Gerald Ford extended the week to the entire month of February to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history,” Below are book recommendations and resources that can be used not only in February, but year around to celebrate Black history.
“Mae Among the Stars’ inspires children to follow their dreams. Mae Jemison was the first Black American woman astronaut, a dream she had as a child. When her classmates made fun of her and her teacher suggested she be a nurse instead, Mae’s parents supported her, “If you can dream it, if you believe it and work hard for it, anything is possible.” Mae pursued her dream to wave to her parents from space and she did just that. Through this story, author Roda Ahmed, makes following our dreams accessible to all children. Stasia Burrington’s illustrations show an appreciation for a child’s excitement when pursuing a dream. The book is recommended for children four to eight.
“Young, Gifted, and Black” commemorates 52 visionary Black leaders around the world. The title comes from a song of the same name written and performed by the talented Nina Simone. The book includes a tribute for each person, describing their life and achievements, which are inspirational. It is a fantastic way to pique curiosity to learn more about a particular person or about the many more who are not in the book. The author, Jamia Wilson says, “This book is a beginning, not the end.” And encourages students: “Let’s look to the lessons of the past while imagining what’s possible when we dare to be bold.” Illustrator, Andrea Pippins’ drawings of each individual celebrates their achievements with a cheerful color palette. The book is recommended for children ages seven to ten.
“This Jazz Man” by Karen Ehrhardt celebrates ten black jazz musicians. The words are meant to be sung using “This Old Man” tune. It also encourages counting skills, movement, and singing along. The back of the book includes a biography for each musician. The illustrations by R. G. Roth are whimsical and fun. There are also several YouTube videos of people singing along to the book. If you do an online search for This Jazz Man, you can pick what you like best. Through my local library app, I listened to the 20-minute audio version narrated by James “D-Train” Williams, which does not include the paper book, so you miss out on the illustrations. This particular audio version emphasizes the musicians and music. Thus, giving you many options, obtain a paper copy and sing along with your kids, sing along with someone on YouTube, or listen to the audio version where you can move to the music to your heart’s content. The age recommendation is four to seven.
Here are more resources:
The 1619 Project is bringing to light a new origin story for the United States. The website has books for adults and children, and lesson plans.
Great ideas and resources from We Are Teachers to celebrate Black History Month year around.
Books, videos, and more ideas on how to teach children Black history from PBS.
These books are available at your library or your local bookstore. Let us always celebrate and appreciate each other every day, all year around.