Equity, Advocacy, and Civil Rights
Black History - More Than Just a Month
Detroit Public Schools Community District is celebrating the amazing history and contributions of African Americans and people of African descent throughout the month of February and beyond. Below are some ways you can celebrate Black History and recognize African American Heritage this month.
Download Flyer: DPSCD Black History Month Activities & Resources
Activities & Resources
Student Expression Contest
DPSCD Students SHINE!
Black History Month Student Expression Contest
Over 80 entries from across the District!
Congrats to all who participated! Check out our winners and their work below!
Grades K-4: Khloe-Marie Johnson Jennings, Joestilles Brooks, Vivica Toussaint
Grades 6-8: Jvonte Hill, Elizabeth Hudson, Fatima Begum
Grades 9-12: Habiba Khatun, Maiya Pickett, Jewelean Dixon-Pasley
28 Days & Ideas To Recognize African Americans
Celebrate Black History Month with these twenty-eight ideas, one for each day of February, that recognize the heritage, accomplishments, and culture of African Americans in the United States.
February 1 Share with students, “The Hill” by youth poet laureate Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem and have students reflect and write a poem about finding their light.
February 2 Bake a sweet potato pie, a traditional soul food dessert, with this delicious recipe by American professional chef, restaurateur, podcast host, cookbook author, and owner of Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland, CA, Tanya Holland.
February 3 Learn how many of the well-known Negro Spirituals popular in the United States during the mid-1800s are much more complex than they first appear. Historians of the Underground Railroad refer to them as "Coded Spirituals". What that means is that the words actually have two meanings; one that is immediately apparent and one that's hidden just below the surface.
February 4 Did you know that Rosa Park’s was born on February 4th? On this day, explore 10 surprising facts about the civil rights activist, Rosa Parks.
February 5 60 years ago, author James Baldwin was asked by a radio host about being Black in America, James Baldwin responded: “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a state of rage almost, almost all of the time. Watch this VIDEO and have a discussion on what it means to be Black in America.
February 6 Have students journey through the virtual exhibition, Cultural Expressions, at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture.
February 7 Let’s get our RAP on! There’s a reason hip-hop is so popular. It’s an inclusive genre of music that many people use for self-expression. But before you get started writing your own raps, it’s important to get to know hip-hop history, to know yourself and to know what you want to write about. In this lesson, students will learn three tips for writing raps. Take a look at this VIDEO that starts with a look at the history of hip-hop in 1973 in the South Bronx. It then stresses the importance of being authentic when you’re using hip-hop, not perpetuating stereotypes and being sure to do your research.
February 8 For our elementary and middle students, let’s explore ACTIVISM! Everyone can make a difference. Click HERE to explore objects that tell the many stories of activism. This collection is designed to spark conversations with children about activism and what children and adults can do to help make their communities, schools and the world better, more fair places for all people.
February 9 For our middle and high school students, let’s explore the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 70s. Art engages in a conversation with history while acting as a visual expression of contemporary thoughts and ideas. Click HERE to access this collection of resources from different Smithsonian museum and biographies of famous artists, students will learn more about the major influences and themes of this period of African American revolution and expression.
February 10 Did you know that on Feb. 10, 1964 - After 12 days of debate and voting on 125 amendments, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by a vote of 290-130? Have students watch this VIDEO and discuss it.
February 11 Teach about the importance of journalism as well as its limitations during the Civil Rights Movement.
February 12 On February 12, 2021, the NAACP marks its 112th anniversary. Spurred by growing racial violence in the early 20th century, and particularly by the 1908 race riots in Springfield, Illinois, a group of African American leaders joined together to form a new permanent civil rights organization, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). February 12, 1909, was chosen because it was the centennial anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln.
February 14 On Feb. 14, 1867 - Morehouse College, a private historically black men's liberal arts college was organized in Augusta, Ga. The institution was later moved to Atlanta. Have students explore and learn Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Click here for 5 things to know about HBCUs.
February 15 On President’s Day, read excerpts from President Barack Obama’s The Audacity of Hope (or his Audacity of Hope Speech) and discuss the importance of the election of our country’s first black president.
February 16 Explore the artist Kehinde Wiley who is known for his vibrant, large-scale paintings of African Americans posing as famous figures from the history of Western art. In October 2017, it was announced that Wiley had been chosen by President Obama to paint an official portrait of the former president to appear in Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery "America's Presidents" exhibition. Click HERE to view the official portrait. You can also virtually explore Kehinde Wiley’s composition, Officer of the Hussars, 2007, at the Detroit Institute of Arts.
February 17 Teach students about director, producer, writer, and actor Spike Lee, a successful and prolific African American filmmaker.
February 18 Did you know that Detroit was one of the last stops before freedom for thousands of former slaves? Abolitionists used speeches and created songs to try to persuade people to help end slavery in the U.S. But some abolitionists also took action, smuggling runaway slaves out of the country. Leading abolitionists came to Detroit to debate their different approaches, including a famous meeting of Fredrick Douglass and John Brown. They met at the house of a third abolitionist; an African-American in Detroit named William Webb. Learn more about William Webb and Detroit and the Underground Railroad
February 19 Alvin Ailey was a choreographer who founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1958. It was a hugely popular, multi-racial modern dance ensemble that popularized modern dance around the world thanks to extensive world tours. His most famous dance is Revelations, a celebratory study of the religious spirit. Ailey received the Kennedy Center Honors in 1988. A year later, on December 1, 1989, Ailey died of AIDS in New York City. Have students to watch Wade in the Water - Alvin Ailey Dance American Dance Theater and have a discussion about “Wade in the Water” lyrics, vocabulary, rhythm, and meaning.
February 20 Let’s support our Students by celebrating them as their full selves which includes seeing and honoring the hair on their heads. Let’s engage elementary students with 7 Awesome Kids Books on Natural Hair and Brown Girl Beauty, they are helping to counter pervasive anti-blackness in our institutions and affirming that black is beautiful, too.
For our middle school and high school students, have them to watch Keke Palmer give a history lesson on black hair for Black History Month and explore what the The Crown Act means to them. Also, check out this YouTube video that highlights 100 Years of Black Hair.
February 21 Cicely Tyson was the first African American to star in a television drama when she starred in the celebrated series East Side/West Side(1963–1964). She also had a role in the soap opera The Guiding Light. In the early 1960s, Tyson appeared in the original cast of French playwright Jean Genet's the Blacks. Click HERE to have Students explore the 15 Monumental Moments In Black Hollywood History.
February 22 Every year, Black History Month recognizes the accomplishments, journeys, and contributions of African Americans throughout history. This year, as in years past, GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) is working to ensure that the lives of black LGBT people are included in the celebration. Click HERE during the month of February to see black LGBT icons that are --including advocates, authors, entertainers, and thinkers that are using their platform to yield remarkable progress of acceptance for the LGBTQ community in the United States.
February 23 The Black Panther Party’s 1966 platform, known as the ten-point program, included the demand: “#7. We want an immediate end to police brutality and murder of Black people, other people of color, and all oppressed people inside the United States.” The issue of police brutality in communities of color has a long history and the Panther platform gives an example of how to turn grievances into a clear set of goals for meaningful change. Teachers, check out this lesson “What We Want, What We Believe’: Teaching with the Black Panthers’ Ten Point Program” by Rethinking Schools
February 24 On Feb. 24, 1864 - Rebecca Lee became the first black woman to receive an M.D. degree. Click HERE to learn more about Rebecca Lee.
February 25 The National Museum of African American History and Culture welcomes you to learn about African American STEM contributions at NASA. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) became an official government agency in 1958, born from its predecessor, the National Advisory Council for Aeronautics (NACA). In 1961, NASA selected its first African American astronaut candidate by the name of Edward Dwight Jr. Although he never flew in space, his selection as an astronaut candidate was a public display to integrate the space agency. Until then, NASA only had white male astronauts flying even though African American scientists, mathematicians, and engineers had been working for the agency for more than a decade. Have students click HERE to learn more about African American’s contributions to NASA.
February 26 Founded in 1994 by C. Brian Williams, Step Afrika! is the first professional company dedicated to the tradition of stepping. Step Afrika! blends percussive dance styles practiced by historically African American fraternities and sororities; traditional African dances; and an array of contemporary dance and art forms into a cohesive, compelling artistic experience. Performances are much more than dance shows; they integrate songs, storytelling, humor and audience participation. Step Afrika! promotes stepping as an educational tool for young people, focusing on teamwork, academic achievement and cross-cultural understanding. Have Students learn more about African American Fraternities and Sororities (The Divine Nine) and click HERE to see a stepping performance by Step Afrika!
February 27 Check out a book from the Detroit Public Library’s African American Booklist (e books are available)
February 28 Black History Month honors the contributions of African Americans to U.S. history. Among prominent figures are Madam C.J. Walker, who was the first U.S. woman to become a self-made millionaire; George Washington Carver, who derived nearly 300 products from the peanut; Rosa Parks, who sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott and galvanized the civil rights movement; and Shirley Chisholm, who was the first African American woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Have Students click HERE to learn more about Black History Firsts!
Black History Virtual Field Trips
February 4, 2021 (3:30p-5:30p)
The National Center for Civil Human Rights (5th Grade and Up)
February 11, 2021 (4:30p-6:30p)
Museum Experience: Friends of the Tuskegee Airmen (3rd grade & Up)
February 18, 2021 (3:30p-5:30p)
Freedom Rides (6th Grade and Up)
February 25, 2021 (3:30p-5:30p)
The Slave Experience - Ft. Monroe, Whitney Plantation, Milton House (5th Grade and Up)
· Interactive Museum Link:
· Student workbook:
1. Students and teacher will use Teams Live link via web browser to join the live tour anonymously.
2. Students and teacher will also open Interactive Museum so they can follow tour guide instructions to click, watch videos, and view pictures at their own pace.
3. Students will use workbook to take notes and answer questions about the museum and material.
Great Resources - learn more about the central role of people of African descent in US History
While the District strives to elevate the history and culture of African Americans each and every day throughout the year, Black History Month offers a spotlighted platform for us to celebrate Black excellence in our community. Check out these resources to learn more about the central role of people of African descent in US History.
- Center for Racial Justice in Education
- Civil Rights Digital Library
- The August Wilson Education Project
- The History Channel
- Shomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
- The Association for the Study of African American Life and History
- The National Museum of African American History and Culture
- Teaching Tolerance
- Black Lives Matter at School
- Celebrate LGBT icons throughout Black History Month
- Ruth Ellis Center
- Poetry Foundation - Audre Lorde