1. Cover one era at a time – As you teach your unit, make sure that you separate the slavery and abolitionist period from the segregation and civil rights era. These two distinct periods of time are difficult enough for students to differentiate, don’t confuse them anymore by switching between the two periods.
2. Be aware of common misconceptions – Remember that when covering topics like the underground railroad, students need to understand that underground meant secret, and that there was not a real railroad. By taking the time to address what will confuse students early and often, they are less likely to be confused.
3. Remember those who were on the right side of history – People of all races participated in both the abolitionist movement to end slavery, as well as the Civil Rights movement to end segregation.
By studying people of all races who made tough choices and did the right thing, it helps all students feel included as they study this topic.
4. Include the whole family – When assigning research papers, or projects try to open the assignment and encourage family participation. History is lived everyday, and there are many grandparents, neighbors, etc. who lived through the civil rights movement and still have vivid memories of it. Encourage students to interview someone about their memories of the march on Washington, etc. Allow students to write about living African Americans who may not be famous, but are admirable for their contributions to society.
5. History is still being made – Remind students that African American history, just like all history, is still being created. People fight for civil rights throughout the world. It’s good for students to realize that injustices have happened to people of all genders, races, and religions throughout the history of the world. Even today, we can be a part of making life better for others.
For a complete unit on African American history, try my Following The North Star unit.
Looking for something more hands on? Check out my Black History Month Lessons and Pop Up Books Bundle. I am including images from both units below. All of the artifacts, and art work photographed in this post are on display in Chicago, IL at the Dusable Museum of African American History. If you are in the Chicagoland area, this museum is another fantastic resource.