Black History Month Assignments For Middle School

A Brief Overview of Black History Month

Black History Month officially began in 1976, when President Gerald R. Ford asked Americans to "seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history." Every year since then, every American president has dedicated February as African American History Month.

The first celebration of African American contributions to the United States was established by the historian Carter G. Woodson. The event was held in February 1926 and was called Negro History Week. The week in February included the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809) and Frederick Douglass (born in February 1818). Over the years, more Americans, black and white, joined the celebrations each February. In the 1960s, the civil rights movement further emphasized the impact of African Americans in American culture and throughout United States history.

Bring the celebration of Black History Month into your classroom with these activities, lesson plans, book resources, and interactive histories.


February 7th, 2014

Black History Month teaching resources


Celebrate Black History Month in your classroom this February with 17 lesson plans and resources that cover topics ranging from important civil rights anniversaries to discussions about race in current events. These resources provide authentic student-driven learning experiences that will help all kids understand and honor Black History Month.

1. American Promise | Documentary

“American Promise”spans 13 years in which Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson, middle-class African-American parents in Brooklyn, N.Y., turn their cameras on their son, Idris, and his best friend, Seun, chronicling the boys’ divergent paths from kindergarten through high school graduation. Use this documentary with your students to explore the relationship of race and education.

2. 50th anniversary of the March on Washington basic resourcesResources

This resource page includes a quick guide to the March on Washington, an interactive timeline of the civil rights movement and a glossary of terms. Use these to get started on your classroom curriculum.

3. A history of discrimination and its consequences | Lesson Plan

Participants marching in a civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in this 1965 photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress. REUTERS/Library of Congress/Handout via Reuters – RTR4SDZ6

GRADES: Middle and High School

In this lesson, students analyze what “The American Dream” means, and what role racial discrimination may play in failing to attain that dream.

4. A time for changeLesson Plan

GRADES: Middle and High School

Use this lesson plan and interactive timeline to see the sequence of events leading up to the iconic March on Washington, who was involved in the march and what the march hoped to achieve.

5. “I have a dream” speech as a visionary textLesson Plan

GRADES: Middle school

Help your students connect to the rich imagery of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech by learning the history of the speech and then illustrating some of its most famous lines in this creative lesson plan.

6. “I have a dream” as a work of literatureLesson Plan

GRADES: 9 – 12

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s most memorable speech from his life as an activist, “I Have a Dream,” was delivered August 28, 1963 before more than 200,000 people in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., as part of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.”

7.  Racial equality – How far have we come and how far do we still need to go? | Lesson Plan

GRADES: Middle and High School

Martin Luther King dreamed of an America where people could “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Use this lesson plan to start a discussion in your classroom about where we are on the path to realizing this dream.

8. A mathematical representation of the MarchLesson Plan

GRADES: All grades, and including students with intellectual disabilities

You don’t have to be a civics or English teacher to talk about the March on Washington in your classroom. Use this engaging lesson plan to bring math into the equation, so to speak, with a classroom activity that helps students create a representative population of the march’s attendees.

9.Discrimination – fair or unfairLesson Plan

GRADES: All grades, and including students with intellectual disabilities. It is designed specifically for students who have difficulty with verbal and written expression.

Make issues of fairness, justice and discrimination personal to your students with this lesson plan, which includes an activity with Dr. Seuss!

10. Leadership at the March through music and speeches | Lesson Plan

GRADES: Middle and High School

While Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech became the most famous to come out of the March on Washington, he was by no means to only person to address the massive crowd assembled on the National Mall. Use this lesson plan to look at the other civil rights leaders and orators who spoke that day, and how effectively they conveyed their messages.

11. The March on Washington and its impact | Lesson Plan

GRADES: Middle and High School

In this lesson plan, students compare King’s “I Have a Dream” speech to other famous texts in American history, including the Emancipation Proclamation and the Gettysburg Address. This is a great addition to any speech, English or history class.

12. Analyzing “Stop and Frisk” through personal narratives and infographics| Lesson Plan

This Common Core-aligned lesson helps students explore the New York City’s “stop, question and frisk” program through videos, graphics and a news article. An engaging introduction creates a foundation to help students understand infographics and their utility as a cross-curricular tool.

13. Debating race, justice and policy in the case of Trayvon Martin| Lesson Plan

Put your students in the shoes of the lawyers from the Zimmerman case in this simulation designed for middle and high school students. They will examine the legal aspects of the tragedy through text and defend their decision either with a written or spoken assessment.

14. Remembering Nelson Mandela| Lesson Plan

In this lesson plan, students will use text from Mandela’s autobiography “Long Walk to Freedom” to connect with Mandela’s life and words. Additionally there is a 20 minute video from PBS NewsHour to help students grasp the magnitude of the world’s loss when he passed.

15. The Trials of Muhammad Ali| Discussion Guide

Use thistrailerand discussion guide to pique students’ interest in the incredible story of Muhammad Ali who was both an athlete and a defender of human rights. The film can be purchased on iTunes, but it is not recommend for class use due to language and some mature content unless it has been approved by you and your school to use in the classroom. Interested in watching the film and participating in a discussion with local leaders and non-profits? Click here for more information about community screenings.

16.  “Let America be America again” by Langston Hughes| Poem and Questions

The Great Books Foundation is providing this free resource to teachers who want to engage and discuss Hughes’ famous poem about the American dream. Click on the link above or here, then download “”High School Sample Unit” in the right column.  Look for the poem and discussion questions starting on page 8 of the document. Also, this free unit contains a lesson on “Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address” starting on page 50.

17. Student Reporting Labs “Race and Change” videos| Resource

Use this dynamic resource to get students thinking about Martin Luther King Jr. and whether his dream has been accomplished today. These 12 high school students are part of PBS NewsHour’s Student Reporting Labs and come from around the country.

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