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As a parent, it’s important to understand that conversations around Black history may be difficult. Still, it is an incredibly important subject for children and adults, both during Black History Month and year-round.
Learning about Black history helps children to develop empathy — being able to feel what others have felt without having experienced the same obstacles. Our children will develop an empathy and compassion not only for Black people, but also for people of all different ethnic backgrounds.
Discussing Black history teaches us how to overcome the limitations society may try to force on us. It’s important to recognize and learn about those who fought to change the laws meant to keep people of color separate, uneducated, and dependent.
And while the stories of today may look different, efforts continue. There is still room for positive change.
How to Teach Black History to Children
Sometimes people avoid having discussions about Black history because it doesn’t directly affect them or their families. Or because the feelings it brings up are uncomfortable. No doubt, the racism and mistreatment of a group of people is not a pretty topic. Still, it’s vital to talk about.
Here are some tips to consider when you start talking with your children about Black history:
- For young children, offer information in small chunks. My oldest child is four years old and has learned about Rosa Parks and why she sat on the bus. If you ask him about Rosa Parks, he will likely tell you: Rosa Parks sat on the bus, and she was a hero! He knows segregation happened at one time, but I do not yet teach him about the acts of violence that occurred with it. That is a conversation for when he is older.
- For older children, dive deeper. People tend to highlight inspirational figures like Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. But this glosses over many of the tragedies that were endured. Do not skip the racism and acts of violence. Discuss what slavery means and how Black people were treated. Talk about Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, and Emmett Till.
- Teach the facts. If you feel your child is old enough to handle hearing about the violence that happened, use the facts to guide the conversation. This can be especially helpful if you don’t know where to start. Do not try to make light of the incidences to spare emotions.
>> RELATED READ :: Celebrating Black/African American History Every Day <<
Books and Shows for Teaching Black History
Books and television shows can be great teaching tools and discussion starters. Here are some resources organized by age:
Children Ages Two to Nine Years Old
I Am Rosa Parks by Brad Meltzer :: This story is told from the perspective of a young Rosa Parks. It is from the creator of Xavier Riddle, which is mentioned below.
The ABC’s of Black History by Rio Cortez :: A celebration of Black history, teaching a new word for each letter of the alphabet.
Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum: I am Harriet Tubman :: This is a television episode in which Xavier Riddle and his friends adventure back in time to meet Harriet Tubman. They learn an important lesson in being courageous.
Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum: Rosa Parks :: Xavier and his friends travel back in time to meet Rosa Parks and learn about equality.
Young Gifted and Black by Jamia Wilson :: This book contains 52 stories of Black leaders from history and present day. These stories are written so that young kids can easily relate and understand.
>> RELATED READ :: 4 Black-Inclusive Books :: How to Create Positive Self-Image for Black Toddlers <<
Children Ages 10 and Up
Betty Before X by Ilyasah Shabazz :: Inspired by real life events, this one tells the story of Betty Shabazz, before she became Malcom X’s wife.
Black History for Beginners by Denise Dennis :: This book includes stories not often discussed.
Black history timeline cards :: Here is a fun, FREE resource you can print and use to study, research, or play games. Each card has a picture of a Black leader and the associated timeline. Click the link for ideas on other ways to use these cards.
Teenagers and Adults
Unseen: Unpublished Black History from the New York Times Photo Archives :: A collection of images and stories no one talks about along with an exploration of why they weren’t deemed newsworthy at the time.
Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts by Rebecca Hall :: A graphic novel telling the stories of women who fought back to end slavery.
How do you talk about Black history in your home?