Black History Discussion Questions

Instructor: Grace Pisano

Grace has a bachelor's degree in history and a master's degree in teaching. She previously taught high school in several states around the country.

Whether doing a unit on black history during February (Black History Month) or another point during the year, these questions will help middle and high school students engage in the content and think critically about the history of a racial group.

Black History

Black history is a term typically used to describe the accomplishments of African Americans in the United States and to remember and honor the struggles and obstacles the race has had to overcome throughout U.S. history.

Black History in the United States

  • Reflect for a moment on all of the famous African American women who come to mind from U.S. history. Think about these women, from famous slaves, to Civil Rights leaders and even figures today. Who stands out to you the most? What obstacles must African American women throughout history overcome? What character traits do many of these famous women share?
  • Although African American history should not be taught only in the month of February, time is often spent studying it only during this month. However, African Americans have played a major role in all events in U.S. history. Rather than focusing on their role for one month of the year, should teachers spend a day focusing on the role of African Americans in each unit they teach? Why or why not?
  • Think about what life would have been like for African Americans after the Civil War but before the Civil Rights Movement. Although technically free from slavery, the race still faced obstacle after obstacle to freely exercise their rights as citizens. What do you think it would have been like to be alive during this time? What internal and external struggles did the people of this generation face?
  • How does black history in America differ from the traditional story of American history? Why is there a need to teach parts of African American history as their own unique element of history?
  • In the Declaration of Independence, leaders of the country famously wrote, ''We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.'' These words were written at the same time that most of these men owned slaves. How were they able to write these words while also owning slaves?
  • What do you think is the most profound moment from African American history in the United States? How did you choose this event?
  • Oftentimes, African American history is taught via only the biggest names from history (Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Jr., etc). But there were many ordinary African Americans who played a vital role in both the country's success and in the fight for equality. From our studies, which of these less common people stands out to you the most? Why?

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