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Back History: Links to the Past

Page history last edited by MrsK Books 5 years, 10 months ago

  "I believe that it is better to tell the truth than a lie.

I believe it is better to be free than to be a slave.

And I believe it is better to know than to be ignorant."

 -- H.L. Mencken


Find information about:

PBS television programs



Black History Month 2015

Articles & Primary Sources with Curriculum


"Who Was Jackie Robinson?"
Lexile: 460

1st Grade

"Martin Luther King, Jr."
Lexile: 470

2nd Grade

"A Hero in Disguise"
Lexile: 710

"American Heroes"
Lexile: 650

"An American Leader"
Lexile: 810

"Great Americans"
Lexile: 560

"A Great Leader"
Lexile: 900

3rd Grade

"Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad"
Lexile: 660

"Maya Angelou"
Lexile: 590

"Sojourner Truth"
Lexile: 630

"Thurgood Marshall"
Lexile: 670

More passages on Famous African Americans

4th Grade

"The Struggle for Equality"
Lexile: 830

"Walking Tall"
Lexile: 770

Comprehension Unit: "Sweet Clara and The Freedom Quilt"

Comprehension Unit: "When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson"

5th Grade

Primary Source: "A Tale of Segregation: Fetching Water"
Lexile: 800

"Emancipation Proclamation"
Lexile: 820

"The Massachusetts 54th Infantry"
Lexile: 870

"Slavery in the Territories"
Lexile: 730

6th Grade

Primary Source: "Wesley Harris: An Account of Escaping Slavery"
Lexile: 970

Primary Source: "Excerpt from Martin Luther King Jr.'s Letter From the Birmingham City Jail"
Lexile: 980

"Slavery in the North"

7th Grade

Primary Source: "An Account from the Slave Trade: Love Story of Jeffrey and Dorcas"
Lexile: 1170

Primary Source: "Letter from Jackie Robinson on Civil Rights"
Lexile: 1070

8th Grade

Primary Source: "Rosa Parks: 100th Birthday" 
Lexile: 1410

Primary Source: "The Courage to Take Action: A Lesson from Rosa Parks"
Lexile: 1200

11th - 12th Grade

Primary Source: "The Legacy of the Marchers on Washington" 
Lexile: 1260

Poems and Primary Sources

9th - 10th Grade

"A Negro Explorer at the North Pole: Forward and Chapter 15"
by Matthew A. Henson
​Lexile: 1530

Poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar
Lexile: Non-Prose

"O Southland!"
Poem by James Weldon Johnson
Lexile: Non-Prose

11th - 12th Grade

"Abolition Fanaticism in New York"
by Frederick Douglass
​Lexile: 1370

"At the Closed Gate of Justice"
Poem by James D. Corrothers
Lexile: Non-Prose

"Fifty Years"
Poem by James Weldon Johnson
​Lexile: Non-Prose

"Ode to Ethiopia"
Poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar
Lexile: Non-Prose

"On Being Brought From Africa"
Poem by Phillis Wheatley
Lexile: Non-Prose

"We Wear the Mask" 
Poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar
Lexile: Non-Prose

Primary Sources From The Civil War Trust

11th - 12th Grade

"Patrick Cleburne's Proposal to Arm Slaves" 
Lexile: 1410

"General Orders No. 1"
By Lt. Colonel C. T. Trowbridge, 33rd U.S. Colored Troops, February 9, 1866
Lexile: 1700

For videos connected to these topics: click here


Writers, illustrators, and storytellers

Video interviews with children's book authors and illustrators video
Watch Reading Rockets' interviews with celebrated African American children's book authors and illustrators, and children's literature historian, Leonard Marcus, who talks about the history of multicultural children's books in the U.S. from the 1960s onward. 

Watch the clip "Family history" from our interview with writer Jacqueline Woodson.

African American Poets (Poets.org)
Find links to African-American poets, books, and lesson plans for understanding and writing poetry.

Gwendolyn Brooks and "We Real Cool" (Poets.org)
The Pulitzer Prize winning-poet Gwendolyn Brooks wrote about African American life in the city. At this website you can listen as she reads her famous poem "We Real Cool."

StoryCorps Griot

A 'griot' is a storyteller in western Africa who keeps alive the oral tradition and history of a village or family. The StoryCorps Griot Project is a special initiative that is gathering and preserving the life stories of African American families.

Recommended children's books

Incredible stories of bravery, resolve, and triumph.
Freedom Stories > 

Click to launch the interactive in a new window.

  Click the Underground Railroad picture to begin your journey

Activities for the classroom, home, and the community

The National African American Read-In (NCTE)
The National Council of Teachers of English asks schools, churches, libraries, bookstores, community and professional organizations, and interested citizens to make literacy a significant part of Black History Month by hosting and coordinating Read-Ins in their communities.


Find more ideas for Read-In activities at ReadWriteThink.

Embracing Black History (PBS Parents)
Browse this collection of booklists and activities that celebrate culture and family and teach diversity — such as growing a family tree, planning a family reunion, or making African vegetable stew with Maya and Miguel.

Celebrate African American Heritage (Scholastic)
This website offers a comprehensive collection of classroom resources including lesson plans, book excerpts, author interviews, information about civil rights leaders, scientists, explorers, musicians, athletes, and little-known African Americans innovators and achievers.

Culture & Change: Black History in America (Scholastic)
Meet famous African Americans, listen to jazz music, publish your own writing, and explore history with the interactive timeline.

The Underground Railroad (National Geographic)
Take an interactive journey on the Underground Railroad and learn more about the "faces of freedom" — including Frederick Douglass and lesser-known activists like Jermain Loguen and William Still. This new site also includes a timeline, maps about the Underground Railroad, and more teaching resources.

Protecting Family History and Looking at Photographs (National Museum of African American History and Culture)
These lesson plans show kids how to protect family history and artifacts the way museums do and teach how to analyze and "read" photographs.

African American History Month for Teachers (Library of Congress)
Put the power of primary sources to work in the classroom. Browse ready-to-use lesson plans, student activities, collection guides, and research aids.

Library Activity Ideas (Programming Librarian)
Find out what libraries across the country are doing to celebrate African-American History Month.

Rosa Parks Bus (Henry Ford Museum)
Learn more about Rosa Parks and her brave actions on December 1, 1955, the story behind the bus, and a chronology of the Civil Rights movement.

Stories to Tell: Curating an African-American History Exhibit (New York Times Learning Network)
Given that history is composed of many interwoven stories, how do curators and other historians decide which stories to tell? How can key historical events, people, places and themes best be represented in a meaningful, engaging exhibit to teach others? In this lesson, students consider the messages sent by artifacts and then develop an African-American history exhibit.

African-American Negro Baseball League
Are you a baseball fan? Visit the website for the African-American Negro Baseball League Museum to learn about the league's history, players, and teams.


Writing activities from Reading Rockets

Writing prompts inspired by James Ransome
Quilts are a recurring theme in Ransome's books, from a charming folk art ABCs (Quilt Alphabet) to the story of an African American girl's escape from slavery (Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt). Imagine a quilt that tells your family's story. What colors, patterns, and images would it have, and why? Ransome is also deeply interested in folktales, particularly African American stories and their origins in African storytelling traditions. In A Pride of African Tales, Ransome contributes richly colored watercolors to illustrate a classic trickster tale, cautionary tale, fable, pourquoi story, and more. Try writing your own pourquoi story, explaining to your friends how your animal got to be the way it is today. Let your imagination go wild!

Writing prompts inspired by Patricia and Fredrick McKissack
In their award-winning folktale collection, The Dark-Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural, McKissack's have written creepy ghost stories and legends to give you a chill. Dark-Thirty is that time just before dark, when it's neither day nor night and mystery lurks in the shadows. Write a story set at dark-thirty that will give us all a good scare.

Family Stories
Children can learn about family heritage at the same time they are improving their literacy skills. Using family-based writing projects, you can build a connection with parents, and help children see the value in their own heritage and in the diversity around them.

Community Stories
Literacy activities can take on a new meaning when students are reading and writing about their own community. Children learn the true value of print when they document the oral histories of the elders in their town.


People and events

Underground RR Timeline

Black History Month (Time for Kids)
Meet the black leaders who inspire some of today’s African American leaders, read an interview with one of the original Tuskegee Airmen (and learn about the movie Red Tails), discover African American inventors whose inventions are part of everyday life, and much more in this multimedia site.

Black History and the Postal Service (National Postal Museum)
Learn all about the black experience through the lens of American postage stamps. Find out about the 1940 Booker T. Washington stamp, the Negro Baseball League stamps, letter writing during the Great Migration, the history of African American postal workers, and more.

Meet Amazing Americans (Library of Congress)
A great introduction to famous Americans, this website offers energetically written stories about Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. DuBois, and Duke Ellington among others.

Celebrate Black History Month (The History Channel)
This multimedia site includes a brief overview of the civil rights struggle, biographies of key players, and video clips of Martin Luther King, Jr., Muhammad Ali, and other famous Americans.

African American World (PBS)
Your guide to African American history and culture. From Sojourner Truth to Jacob Lawrence, discover the courage and talent that shaped the African American experience.

Black History Month (Biography)
Learn about the lives of African-Americans who have made extraordinary achievements in their fields, including inventors such as George Washington Carver; activists like Malcolm X and Rosa Parks; athletes such as Willie Mays and Michael Jordan; and entertainers like Bessie Smith and Oprah Winfrey.


Online guides to African American history

African American History Resources (Library of Congress)
Celebrate the contributions of African Americans throughout U.S. history. Learn about Harriet Tubman, John Hope Franklin, the Tuskegee Airmen, African Americans in the military, African American band music and recordings, and the Emancipation Proclamation. Find a number of primary documents and resources for teachers.

African American Odyssey (Library of Congress)
This site showcases the African American collections of the Library of Congress. Displaying more than 240 items, including books, government documents, manuscripts, maps, musical scores, plays, films, and recordings, this is the largest black history exhibit ever held at the Library of Congress.

Guide to Black History (Encyclopedia Brittanica)
This site includes an extensive timeline, audio and video clips, and biographies.


PBS television programs

Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson
Jack Johnson — the first African-American Heavyweight Champion of the World, whose dominance over his white opponents spurred furious debates and race riots in the early 20th century — enters the ring once again in this PBS documentary by acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burns. The website includes a teacher's guide.

Slavery and the Making of America
The first slaves were bought in 1619, the last freed in 1865. In the intervening 250 years, slaves labored to make America what it is today. This television series was produced by WNET. The website includes a K-12 Learning section.

Citizen King
This program, part of the American Experience series on PBS, pushes past the myths that have obscured Martin Luther King's story to reclaim the history of a people's leader. Using the personal recollections, diaries, letters, and eyewitness accounts of friends, family, journalists, law enforcement officers and historians, this film brings fresh insights to King's difficult journey, his charismatic — if at times flawed — leadership, and his truly remarkable impact. The website includes a teacher's guide.

Eyes on the Prize
The landmark documentary series. Through contemporary interviews and historical footage, the series covers all of the major events of the civil rights movement from 1954 to 1985. On the extensive website you'll find a wealth of ideas for classroom activities at different grade levels.

Return to the Black History Biography page 

As a life-long reader you experience the freedom of being your own teacher !

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