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Black History Resources in PBS LearningMedia

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Celebrate Black History Month in your classroom by highlighting the African American artists, educators, icons, and influential leaders that have impacted our nation’s history and culture. Use PBS LearningMedia to enhance your lessons with interviews, historic images and videos – and remember to register online for full access to the library.

Duke Grades 1-4 | Animated Storybook | Icons in Music

Introduce your young students to the toe-tapping genres of ragtime and jazz through the story of iconic musician, Duke Ellington.

This video segment from Weston Woods presents Duke by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney, about Duke Ellington, one of the founding fathers of jazz. When Duke Ellington was young, his parents wanted him to learn to play the piano. Although he began lessons, he was soon lured away by his love of baseball. Later, as a teenager he heard the new musical style called “ragtime” and he was inspired once again to learn to play piano. Soon, he created his own style of music using “hops” and “slides” on the piano. He became a popular entertainer with a flair that attracted many fans.

Rosa Parks
 Grades 3-12 | Interview | Civil Rights Icons


Enhance classroom discussion around the Civil Rights Movement with this interview of Rosa Parks and ask your students to examine her role in the struggle for racial equality.

This interview with civil rights activist Rosa Parks describes her role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. On December 1, 1955, Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Her refusal sparked a massive bus boycott that lasted 381 days, ending on December 21, 1956, after the United States Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation on city buses was unconstitutional.

Picturing America – Jacob Lawrence and Martin Puryear
 Grades 6-12 | Video | Icons in Art

Invite your students to uncover the driving themes behind the paintings in Jacob Lawrence’s “Migration Series” and the elements influencing Martin Puryear’s sculpture work.

In this video from Picturing America on Screen, students learn about American artists Jacob Lawrence and Martin Puryear. Inspired by the musical storytelling of West Africa’s griots, Jacob Lawrence employed in The Migration of the Negro Panel no. 57 a painted and written narrative to invoke how African-American families “came up” from the South to settle in cities such as New York, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh.

Suspended above the floor and anchored by almost undetectable wires, Martin Puryear’s 36-foot Ladder for Booker T. Washington seems to float in space as it rises and abruptly narrows at the top. The artistic metaphor of a ladder not easily climbed dovetails with the contradictions in the legacy of slave-turned-educator Booker T. Washington.

Remembering Civil Rights Leader Dorothy Height
 Grades 6-13+ | Video | Civil Rights Icons

Meet the woman that President Obama hailed as the “Godmother of the Civil Rights Movement.” Ask your students to consider her impact on the rights of African Americans and women.

This Newshour video clip with accompanying lesson plan highlights civil rights activist Dorthy Height long career during which she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.  She befriended Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and was present at many great moments in history.

Deconstructing the Documentary Grades 9-12 | Collection

Invite your class to experience Bordentown, the remarkable all-black boarding school described as a “unique educational utopia.”

This lesson with accompanying video clips will ask students to analyze the film, to differentiate between narrative (fiction) and documentary storytelling, and to consider the ways in which all films are constructed by filmmaking decisions. They will ultimately consider the ways in which the final product (this documentary film) might or might not reflect the complete “reality” of the topic it presents.

Lucy Laney Grades 9-12 | Video | Icons in Education

Laney, an influential Jim Crow-era educator, believed it was essential to cultivate the minds of her students in order to develop intellectual leaders for the future. Invite your students to consider her philosophy of education.

This video segment from The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow addresses the life and impact of Lucy Laney, the founder of the Haines Normal and Industrial School in Augusta, Georgia. Laney was an influential Jim Crow-era educator.

And there are lots more lesson plans and video clips from The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow in PBS LearningMedia.

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