Deciding which famous people to study during black history month can be overwhelming. There are so many incredible people with such unique and amazing stories throughout black history that choosing what may resonate with your students best can be challenging. You will cover many historical events while learning about African Americans’ many inventions, achievements, and triumphs. Learning about black history is as important as knowing how our flag got its stars and stripes, but many stories are often overlooked in modern history books.
To help you narrow down your Google searches, I have listed 3 incredible, but lesser-known, people to study for Black History Month. These 3 are included in my African American Biographies resource, along with 28 other famous African Americans.
Sarah E. Goode
Black History is chalked full of inventors like Sarah E. Goode. People have invented and created things that we are familiar with. However, we never question the origin or story of how they came to be. Sarah and her husband operated a furniture store that catered to many working-class people that lived in small apartments. She listened to the needs of her customers. Then she devised a way to make a bed fold up into a cabinet, creating more room for the residents. Her invention was patented over 100 years ago, but we still utilize it when necessary in the modern world.
Connected Activity Suggestion
After learning about Sarah E. Goode, it would be fun for students to design a small apartment on paper and make a folding bed, or as we know them today, Murphy Bed. Challenge your students to create a bed that would save the most space in the room.
This activity allows students to focus on the design aspect of the project while using critical thinking to make the room functional. Here is a great video demonstrating how someone could use Sarah E. Goode’s invention in today’s world.
Aside from inventors, Black History sheds light on some brilliant people who helped shape how we gather and use information today. People like Benjamin Banneker, a free man during slavery in America, used his curiosity about how the world around him worked to fuel his intelligence.
Benjamin used his love of the stars and his education in mathematics to predict solar eclipses. Later, he would publish his own almanac, including astronomical data, weather predictions, and essays. This ingenious man also used his surveyor skills to help layout Washington, D.C., the eventual capital of the United States.
Benjamin Banneker was known for the many things he was able to accomplish over the course of his life. He may have been most recognized though for creating what is thought to be the first clock built in America.
Connected Activity Suggestion
You can do a quick Google search of a picture of his clock to show the students the differences between one made in the 1700s and one you would buy today. There’s also a great video here that shows how the inner workings of a watch operate to let the students see what Benjamin may have studied before working on a clock of his own.
Another fantastic person to cover with your students would be a man by the name of Langston Hughes. Langston was a boy who became well educated with a love of literature and racial pride that was instilled in him by his grandmother. He studied at Columbia University in New York City before eventually settling down in Harlem, New York. His life experiences and writing skills made him an essential figure in the Harlem Renaissance, an African American movement focused on literature, music, theater, art, and politics. Hughes wrote over 25 novels, non-fiction books, and books for children.
Connected Activity Suggestion
Langston Hughes was honored by the United States Postal Service with a stamp to celebrate his 100th birthday. A really fun, engaging activity to complete with your students would be allowing them to create a stamp commemorating a prominent person in Black History of their choosing. Adding the cost of the stamp that would correlate with the time period would be an added touch of detail to each drawing, depending on who they chose for their project.
Hands-On Activities for Black History Month
African American Historical Figure Yearbook
While students may have a difficult time organizing the timeline of events and people, simple activities such as creating a yearbook may help keep things in order.
Using the templates from the African American Biographies resource, students can create an African American Historical Figure Yearbook.
This is a great activity for small group or early finishers. The templates included allow students to fill in information after reading the short passages.
African American Biographies
Reading short biographies or reading passages helps highlight each person’s accomplishments while keeping your students’ attention. It is a great way to understand how these incredible people became part of not only Black History but American history.
You can take what you have learned by reading through some of the biographies of these fantastic people and incorporate them into activities or games. Students will forget they are learning and will easily connect with the historical figures.
You can have students play a version of Guess Who? using the information learned by reading through the biographies. You could also make bingo cards for younger students. Represent the people on the cards by their inventions or accolades.
You can find even more activities for Black History Month on this round up post!
More people to study for black history Month
Celebrate important figures in Black History during the month of February with my African American Biographies resource. This resource includes 31 non-fiction biographies about famous African Americans (including the 3 I shared above).
You can use the biographies so many different ways in your classroom:
- create a timeline
- make a yearbook
- play trivia games
- comprehension lessons
This resource is so versatile and can be used all year long, not just during Black History Month in February!
Are you learning about an interesting figure in Black History that I didn’t cover in my African American Biographies resource? Let me know in the comments below!