Black History Month is a time to appreciate and honor the hard work and triumphs of African Americans in our country. It’s an important theme to bring in to the classroom throughout the entire month to keep important conversations going between ourselves and our students! While there are countless African American activists, speakers, teachers, and more throughout our history that we could honor, I have made a list of 10 people to study in your classroom during Black History Month!
Jackie Robinson was a professional baseball player who became the first African American to play Major League Baseball. He faced plenty of discrimination during his time as a baseball player, but did not allow the thoughts and actions of others to influence his ability to chase his dreams.
Ruby Bridges was a bright young girl in Louisiana who, like all other African American students around her, was forced to abide by the rules of a segregated school system. However, Ruby became an inspiring activist at the young age of six when she became the first African American to desegregate Frantz Elementary School, despite the numerous acts of hatred and discrimination she faced.
Frederick Douglass was born into slavery, though managed to learn how to read at the age of 12, and eventually escaped slavery at the age of 20. He was abolitionist who put his time and energy into speaking and writing about the rights of all people, including African Americans and women. He even fought for the rights of African American soldiers during the Civil War.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was a minister in the south who became one of the most infamous activists for Civil Rights. His famous “I Have a Dream” speech spoke about his wish that one day all Americans would be treated equally, regardless of the color of their skin.
Sojourner Truth was a slave-turned-abolitionist who advocated not just for the rights of African Americans, but women as well. She spoke all over the country about her desire for equal rights for all.
Rosa Parks was a Civil Rights activist who felt so strongly about equal rights for African Americans that she went to jail defending her beliefs! In the city of Montgomery, Alabama, Parks was sitting on the bus when the driver insisted she stand up and give her seat to a white man. She refused to do so, and spent the night in jail for her refusal. Her determination led to a bus boycott that would last an entire year!
Bessie Coleman was the first licensed female black pilot in the world! She attended flight school in 1919, and paved the way for many other women and African Americans to join the profession. Bessie was not recognized or appreciated for her contribution to the aviation industry until after her death.
Harriet Tubman was a tough and determined woman born into slavery. In her early teens, she ordered to help restrain a fellow slave and when she refused, she was hit in the head with a weight. Later into early adulthood Tubman escaped slavery, and returned to the south 19 times to help other slaves escape using the Underground Railroad.
Mae Jemison is a brilliant modern African American woman who is a teacher, physician, and astronaut! Jemison was the first African American woman to go into space aboard the space shuttle Endeavor, and continues to work to help women of color become more involved in the science and technology industries!
Benjamin O. Davis Sr.
Benjamin O. Davis Sr. was a member of the United States Military for decades, taking part in the Spanish American War and working his way through the ranks. Davis Sr. is most known for becoming the first African American general in the United States Military! He is highly regarded by the United States armed forces, and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
While there are so many influential African Americans who deserve to be studied and honored, I hope you can use the ten I have listed here to remind your students of some people they might be familiar with, and introduce them to some that might be new to them!