Black History Month

Each February, Americans across the United States commemorate Black History Month, a month-long national celebration of the contributions and achievements that Black men and women have made throughout U.S. and world history.

Black History Month serves as an inclusive month-long call to action for all Americans to remember, discover, understand, and honor the key contributions that Black men and women have made to our country, our society, and to the world.

We encourage our students and families to explore the free resources below to learn more about this important history and the Black Americans that helped shape the world we all live in today.

For Families

NYCDOE School Library System

Black History Month: Remembering the Past Shaping the Future Collection

A collection e-books and audiobooks for young people relating to the Black experience in the US and beyond. Available to NYCDOE students and teachers by logging into the Sora app with their NYCDOE credentials.

Center for Racial Justice in Education

Two collections including dozens of resources organized into categories to support the integration of Black history and experiences in school curricula and at home.

New York Public Library

The New York Public Library celebrates Black History Month throughout February with live online events and programs, blog posts, recommended reading, and a wide array of digital resources available to anyone with a library card.

For 95 years, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture has preserved, protected, and fostered a greater understanding of the Black experience through its collections, exhibitions, programs, and scholarship. In response to the uprisings across the globe demanding justice for Black lives, the Schomburg Center has created a Black Liberation Reading List. The titles on the list represent books we and the public turn to regularly as activists, students, archivists, and curators, with a particular focus on books by Black authors and those whose papers we steward.

A listing of the public events hosted by the Schomburg Center for the month of February.

Book Lists

The following book suggestions, by grade, are about Black history and the Black experience that families and educators can read with their students in grades 3-K through 12 this month and beyond. We hope you will enjoy and learn from these outstanding titles—some are historical and non-fiction by nature, while others are original works of fiction that feature Black characters and perspectives that are not normally reflected in other popular works.

Many of these books are readily available via New York’s public libraries, as well as through the Citywide Digital Library available on Sora for our students.

Early Elementary School (Grades 3-K through 2)

  • All Because You Matter by Tami Charles; art by Bryan Collier
  • Another by Christian Robinson
  • Boogie Boogie, Y’all by C.G. Esperanza
  • Dream Street by Tricia Elam Walker; art by Ekua Holmes
  • I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes; art by Gordon C. James
  • I Got the Rhythm by Connie Schofield-Morrison; art by Frank Morrison
  • Liberty’s Civil Rights Road Trip by Michael W. Waters; art by Nicole Tadgell
  • Me & Mama by Cozbi A. Cabrera
  • Off to See the Sea by Nikki Grimes; art by Elizabeth Zunon
  • Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o; art by Vashti Harrison
  • Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold
  • Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora

Elementary School (Grades 3–5)

  • The 1619 Project: Born on the Water by Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renée Watson; art by R. Nikkolas Smith
  • For Beautiful Black Boys Who Believe in a Better World by Michael W. Waters, art by Keisha Morris
  • The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson; art by R. Gregory Christie
  • Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans by Kadir Nelson
  • Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison
  • Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History by Vashti Harrison with Kwesi Johnson
  • Miss Crandall’s School for Young Ladies & Little Misses of Color by Elizabeth Alexander and Marilyn Nelson; art by Floyd Cooper
  • Ruth and the Green Book by Calvin Alexander Ramsey and Gwen Strauss; art by Floyd Cooper
  • The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander; art by Kadir Nelson
  • Young, Gifted, and Black: Meet 52 Heroes from Past and Present by Jamia Wilson; art by Andrea Pippins

Middle School (6–8)

  • Blended by Sharon M. Draper
  • Fortune’s Bones: The Manumission Requiem by Marilyn Nelson
  • A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramée
  • King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender
  • My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich by Ibi Zoboi
  • The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert
  • Planet Middle School by Nikki Grimes
  • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
  • Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library by Carole Boston Weatherford; art by Eric Velasquez
  • The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore
  • Woke: A Young Poet’s Call to Justice by Mahogany L. Browne, Elizabeth Acevedo, and Olivia Gatwood; art by Theodore Taylor III
  • The Year I Flew Away by Marie Arnold

High School (Grades 9–12)

  • Ain’t Burned All the Bright by Jason Reynolds; art by Jason Griffin
  • Black AF: America’s Sweetheart  by Kwanza Osajyefo; art by Jennifer Johnson
  • Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron
  • On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
  • One of the Good Ones by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite
  • Passenger on the Pearl: The True Story of Emily Edmonson’s Flight from Slavery by Winifred Conkling
  • Revolution in Our Time: The Black Panther Party’s Promise to the People by Kekla Magoon
  • She Came to Slay: The Life and Times of Harriet Tubman by Erica Armstrong Dunbar
  • The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass
  • Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles
  • Watch Us Rise by Renée Watson and Ellen Hagan

For Students

Association for the Study of African American Life and History

  • Origin of Black History Month 
  • Description: Short history of Black History Month with a focus on the early role of Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (nee Association for the Study of Negro Life and History). 
  • Focus Question for the Origin of Black History Month: What factors led to the creation and proliferation of Black History Month?
  • Discussion Questions:
    • Who is Carter G. Woodson and what was his role in the development of Black History Month?
    • What is the significance of Abraham Lincoln’s and Frederick Douglass’ birthdays to the history of Black History Month?
    • What was Carter G. Woodson’s goal in establishing Black History Week (known at the time as Negro History Week) and later month? 
    • How did the 1960s change the study of Black history? Do you think that the current period is going to see a change in the way Black history is taught in schools? Explain. 

Fellowship of Reconciliation

  • Martin Luther King and The Montgomery Story
  • Description: A sixteen-page comic book created in 1957 to highlight the practice of nonviolent protest and the life of MLK. The book focuses on the Bus Boycott of 1956. More background information and historical context are available in this feature from Teaching Tolerance. Students can continue their exploration of comics about civic issues by reading the NYCDOE Civics for All comics, Action Activists and Registered
  • Focus Question for Martin Luther King and The Montgomery Story: How was nonviolent protest successful for change?
  • Discussion Questions:
    • How does the comic’s use of language and imagery reflect the time period it was created?
    • How is discrimination represented in the comic? Provide specific examples. 
    • How is Rosa Parks represented in the book? What type of information would you need to determine if this is an accurate representation? 
    • Why was there resistance against nonviolent protest? 
    • What role did the teachings of Gandhi play in the practice of nonviolence in the struggle for civil rights?
    • Why do you think the book refers to nonviolent protest as the “Montgomery Method?” 
    • What do you think was the main purpose of this book?

National Geographic Kids

  • Black History Month 
  • Description: A short reading about the history of Black History Month for elementary school readers. 
  • Focus Question for Black History Month: What is Black History Month and how did it develop? 
  • Discussion Questions: 
    • Who is Carter G. Woodson and why is he important to the history of Black History Month?
    • Why did Carter G. Woodson want people in the United States to focus on Black history?
    • When was Black History Week expanded into Black History Month?
    • What does Black History Month honor?
    • What is the role of Black History Month presently?

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

  • Storied
  • Description: 2020 was the 100th anniversary of the Negro National Leagues. The history of Black people in organized baseball is central to the history of the United States. Storied is a collection of 22 short videos about the history of the Negro League hosted by Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Musuem. Have students select one video and use it as a starting point to do a short research project guided by the questions below. For more on teaching the Negro Leagues, take a look at this lesson on the history of organized Black Baseball
  • Focus Question for Storied: What was the short and long term context for organized Black baseball in the United States?
  • Discussion Questions:
    • What were the Negro Leagues? Why were they so important to Black history? To United States history?
    • What was the significance of the topic you selected from the Storied series about the history of organized Black baseball? 
    • How did the Negro Leagues challenge segregation in the United States?
    • What connections are there between the Negro Leagues and other significant cultural phenomena in Black history such as Reconstruction, the Great Migration, or the Harlem Renaissance?
    • How can the history of the Negro Leagues help us to learn about Black history from a Black perspective?
    • This year, Major League Baseball finally recognized the Negro Leagues as official major leagues, why do you think it took so long? 

New York Times

  • John Lewis’ Together, You Can Redeem the Soul of Our Nation
  • Description: Representative John Lewis was a civil rights leader and congressman who died on July 17, 2020. He wrote this essay shortly before his death. There is also a recording of Morgan Freeman reading Representative Lewis’ last words.
  • Focus Question for Together, You Can Redeem the Soul of Our Nation: What is good trouble and how can good trouble be used to make the nation a better place? 
  • Discussion Questions: 
    • What did Rep. John Lewis mean when he wrote, “Emmett Till was my George Floyd. He was my Rayshard Brooks, Sandra Bland and Breonna Taylor”?
    • How did Martin Luther King, Jr. influence Lewis when he heard the civil rights leader on the radio? 
    • What does Rep. Lewis mean by getting in “good trouble, necessary trouble”? How can you get in “good trouble”? What makes it necessary?
    • What needs to be done for historians to “say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war”? To what extent is it possible? What can make it possible? 
    • How can we carry on the legacy of Rep. John Lewis? 

USA Today

  • Why Is Black History Month In February? How Do You Celebrate? Everything You Need To Know
  • Description: Article with a short history of Black History Month and a discussion about how to expand the teaching of Black history beyond the month of February. 
  • Focus Question for Why Is Black History Month In February?: Why is Black History Month important?
  • Discussion Questions:
    • What is Black history? What is Black History Month?
    • How did Black History Month begin?
    • Why is Black History Month in February?
    • The article quotes scholar LaGarrett J. King as saying that some, “teach Black history from a white-centered perspective.” What do you think that means? Why is it important to teach Black history from a Black perspective? 
    • In the article, LaGarrett J. King offered seven guiding principles for educators to explore when teaching Black history. What do you think that each of these principles brings to the study of Black history? Are there any principles that you would change? Add? 
    • What are some ways that Black history should extend beyond the month of February? 

Witness Docs

  • Description: A podcast series that draws on archives of the voices of Black Americans to tell the story of tiny, everyday acts that contributed to the end of slavery in America. 
  • Focus Question for Seizing Freedom: Time for a New Story: Why is it time for a new story of the Civil War and Reconstruction?
  • Discussion Questions: 
    • What has been the story of the Civil War and Reconstruction?
    • What are the connections between the events on January 6, 2021 and the story that has been told about the Civil War and Reconstruction?
    • How can historians and archivists help to connect events in the past to events that are occurring in the present?
    • Why is it important to uncover and tell new stories about the past?

For Teachers

NYC Department of Education

The 1619 Project

  • Connections to the Passport to Social Studies and Civics for All Curricula
  • The 1619 Project, a New York Times initiative, marks the significance of the 400th anniversary of the arrival of more than 20 Africans at Point Comfort in the Virginia Colony. In August 1619, the British Colonies of North America entered into the horrific Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and the practice of race-based slavery. In addition to marking the anniversary, the publication’s essays, articles, and poems seek to center the role and agency of African Americans in the larger narrative of United States History. According to its editors, The 1619 Project “aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.”
  • This resource identifies NYCDOE Passport to Social Studies, Civics for All curriculum lessons, and Hidden Voices profiles that can be connected to and enriched by corresponding essays or poems from the Project. These lessons can be utilized to support, amplify and help students create context for the thought-provoking ideas presented in The 1619 Project. The topics in the table are arranged in approximate chronological order by theme.

John Lewis Talk for NYC Teachers and Students and Freedom Now: The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

  • A video and lesson plan from the Passport to Social Studies to use while teaching the March trilogy.
  • The video is of Congressman John Lewis’ visit with NYCDOE students at New-York Historical Society in December of 2019, his last appearance on stage in his lifetime. Congressman Lewis’ speech begins at 19:20. 
  • The lesson plan is from Grade 8 Unit 6 of the Passport to Social Studies curriculum and focuses on the way that Lewis’ graphic history March tells the story of the 1963 March on Washington.

Hidden Voices: Untold Stories in New York City History 

  • A teacher-facing resource guide aligned to the Passport to Social Studies curriculum to help teachers facilitate and explore inclusive learning experiences that validate the diverse perspectives and contributions of underrepresented individuals and groups. Alongside guidance for teachers on authentically incorporating diverse perspectives are profiles of selected lesser-known figures who have had an impact on New York City history. Each profile includes discussion questions and document analysis questions for each grade band as well as explicit connections to Passport to Social Studies units and lessons, including profiles of significant Black figures like Maria Van Angola, Eliza Jennings Graham, David Ruggles, and Elsie Richardson.

Hidden Voices: LGBTQ+ Stories in United States History 

  • A teacher-facing resource guide aligned to the Passport to Social Studies curriculum. The design and included resources allow teachers to integrate and explore inclusive learning experiences that validate the diverse perspectives and contributions of underrepresented individuals and groups in the LGBTQ+ community, including profiles of Black members of the community like Rebecca Primus, Addie Brown, Ma Rainey, Bayard Rustin, and Audre Lorde.

Hidden Voices: LGBTQ+ Stories in United States History Lesson Plans (DOE Facing) and Hidden Voices: LGBTQ+ Stories in United States History Lesson Plans (Public Facing)

  • A collection of lesson plans to build on content found in the Hidden Voices: LGBTQ+ Stories in United States History guide, and to provide models for teaching the Profiles and Portraits of an Era found in the book. All of the lessons contain new and exciting sources, including primary sources from local and national archives to make your curriculum more LGBTQ+ inclusive. Lesson plans in this collection include LGBTQ+ community, including Black members of the LGBTQ+ community like Rebecca Primus, Addie Brown, Ma Rainey, Bayard Rustin, and Audre Lorde.

Recognized Comic

  • A two-part LGBTQ+ graphic history, created by Good Trouble Comics in collaboration with the NYCDOE Civics for All and Social Studies teams.
  • The two stories found in Recognized are, “Shine,” a story about Alain Locke, and “In Love and Resistance,” a story about Sylvia Rivera narrated by Marsha P. Johnson. This graphic history is based on two profiles found in the New York City Department of Education’s Hidden Voices: LGBTQ+ Stories in United States History. The two comics include fictional characters, semi-fictional settings, and a great deal of historical facts and details about significant LGBTQ+ figures from our past.

Action Activists #2 Activism in New York comic 

  • A comic that tells the story of four significant moments in the activist history of New York City and is a part of the Civics for All initiative. The second story in Action Activists # 2 focuses on the Abolitionists’ activism in New York City before the Civil War, including the work of David Ruggles. 

Association for the Study of African American Life and History, 2021 Theme 

  • When Carter G. Woodson established Negro History week in 1926, he realized the importance of providing a theme to focus the attention of the public. The intention has never been to dictate or limit the exploration of the Black experience, but to bring to the public’s attention important developments that merit emphasis. The 2021 theme is The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity.

Black Perspectives, Introduction to the #Blackpanthersyllabus

  • The #blackpanthersyllabus is a crowdsourced collection of resources lead by scholars Dr. Keisha Blain and Dara Vance to better contextualize the history of the Black Panthers and offer nuanced perspectives on the history of Black Power.

Black Perspectives, Introduction to the #WakandaSyllabus

  • A crowdsourced collection of resources led by Dr. Walter Greason to help teachers use the Black Panther film to provide an opportunity for students to explore the traditions of Black nationalism, Pan-Africanism, and the variety of African indigenous cultures.

Center for Civic Education: 60 Second Civics, Celebrating Black History Month

  • A collection of podcasts and videos, updated daily, celebrating Black History Month. The site also includes lesson plans teaching the story of the civil rights movement and the power of nonviolent action to effect change.

Education Week, How to Get Black History Right: A Series

  • A collection curated by guest editor LaGarrett J. King of opinion-based essays and videos that provide a reflection on what it means to teach Black history.

Facing History, Honoring Black Agency & Black Joy

  • Landing page for Facing History’s February 2021 resources celebrating Black History Month by honoring Black agency and Black joy. Will include teaching resources and blog posts.

History Channel, Black History Month

  • Resource that includes a description of the origins of Black History Month as well as links to Black history documentaries and photo galleries of Black women leaders. 

National Archives, Black History 

  • Collection of primary and secondary sources from the National Archives and Records Administration as well as selected resources available at other Federal sites such as the National Parks Service and Library of Congress.

Learning for Justice, Why We Need Black History Month—Especially This Year

  • Resources to help teachers consider how they are framing Black History Month this particular year. Includes articles about the need for—and history behind—Black History Month and support for teaching Black history in a way that moves beyond trauma and embraces liberation and resistance.

Learning for Justice, How Are You Teaching Black History?

  • Curated collection from Learning For Justice intended to help teach Black history beyond trauma and help students recognize the brilliance, strength, and love that Black history represents.

PBS NewsHour Extra, Black History Month Teaching Resources

  • A collection of resources for grades 6-12 that includes lesson plans and videos that cover topics ranging from important civil rights anniversaries to discussions about race in current events.

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Traveling While Black: A Century of Pleasure & Pain & Pilgrimages

  • A digital exhibition curated by the director of the Schomburg, Kevin Young, which examines the history of Black travel.

Teach Rock, “Alright” and the History of Black Protest Songs

  • A lesson plan in which students compare Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” with Black protest songs of the past in order to identify common themes and ideas that artists have used to illustrate Black experiences in the United States.

Teach Rock, The Gospel Origins of “Chain of Fools

  • A lesson plan that answers the question: How did Aretha Franklin’s foundation in Gospel music influence her recording of “Chain of Fools,” helping to establish a Soul sound and bringing Black culture into mainstream America?
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