Talk to Your Kids About Black History Month
WHAT TO SAY
Black History Month is an opportunity for everyone to learn and think about the contributions that African Americans have made to our culture and heritage, from the struggle for equal rights to contributions in sciences, the arts, and every part of our daily lives. Black History Month was the brainchild of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, a respected African American scholar. Dr. Woodson's parents were newly freed slaves, and as a boy, Dr. Woodson worked in the coalmines of Kentucky to help support his family. Despite poverty, he was determined to become educated, and he eventually earned his doctorate from Harvard in 1912. Dr. Woodson spent much of his life working to bring the history of Black Americans to national awareness, so that Black History would find a respected place in our history books and understanding.
African American Heritage
American history is filled with the contributions of African-Americans who have enriched every area of American life, and spoken out against injustice and inequality. Here are three significant figures in African American History:
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
led the Civil Rights Movement from the mid 1950s until his assassination in 1968. A Baptist minister, Dr. King promoted nonviolent tactics to achieve the end of racial segregation and to ensure equal rights for all Americans. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1964 in recognition of his work, and the U.S. Congress voted to observe a national holiday to honor Dr. King on the third Monday in January, beginning in 1986.
In the famous words of Dr. King:
"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today."
Born in 1820 in Maryland, Harriett Tubman
escaped from slavery and became a key leader in the movement to abolish slavery before the American Civil war. She helped more than 300 slaves escape to freedom in the North, via the "Underground Railroad," a secret system of safe houses and individuals that worked together under cover to help slaves escape. During the Civil War, she served as a spy, nurse and laundress for the Federal forces. Although she was honored widely, she spent most of her life in poverty---it was only after the Civil war that she received a pension from the Union for her service to the Federal Army.
A son of slaves, born in southwest Missouri sometime around 1861, George Washington Carver
grew to be one of the most renowned scientists in American history. He had a great interest in plants and animals, and a desire to learn---and despite great hardship, he earned a high school diploma while he worked as a farmhand. He went on to earn both Bachelor of Science and Masters degrees in college. His discoveries helped revolutionize farming in the South. He made great contributions in the development of new products from peanuts, soybeans and sweet potatoes, and through his discoveries, the South was freed from its dependence on cotton as it main crop.
For more information about African-American history,
We encourage you to visit "African American Mosaic"
at the Library of Congress.
FOLLOW UP FUN
- Encourage your children to pick their favorite heroes during Black History Month. They can be famous politicians, sports figures and businessmen and women. They can also be personal heroes to your child like a special teacher, or family member.
- You can discuss these heroes at the dinner table during Black History Month or have your child make a book that includes pictures of these heroes along with a paragraph explaining "Why ________________ Is A Hero To Me"