Black History in America Essay Topics

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Studying black history is an important way for many students to build their identity and understand the nature of race and race relations in the United States. The essay topics in this lesson will help your students think deeply about black history.

Essays About Black History

As a teacher of US history, you want to make sure your students get as balanced and as rounded of a view possible of the history of this country. This means that sometimes you need to put in extra work to ensure they learn narratives from history that too often get forgotten. One way to do this is to have your students write essays about black history. Unfortunately, the study of black history is frequently confined to February (Black History Month) when, in fact, it can be easily folded into an overall study of the history of this country. This lesson offers a series of essay topics designed to get your students thinking about and understanding black history.

Essay Topics About People

  • Write an essay describing the life and times of Frederick Douglass. In your essay, make an argument that Douglass either should or should not be studied as a significant hero in the history of the United States. Use examples from his life and writing to prove your point either way.
  • Why is Harriet Tubman so often heralded as a hero of Black history? Write an essay describing the character traits Tubman embodied and the reason that her life and work played such a significant role in history.
  • Read the text of Sojourner Truth's ''Ain't I a Woman?'' speech. Using what you know about Truth's life and times as well as the history of black women's lives more broadly, offer a close reading and analysis of the speech and what Truth was trying to communicate.
  • Choose two different black cultural figures to write about, such as artists, writers or inventors. Write an essay that compares and contrasts these two people's lives and work. Think about the extent to which race and racism lent to their similarities, but also consider them as individual people who made great cultural contributions.
  • Write about a Black Civil Rights hero who you have not learned much about in the past. Try to choose someone other than Martin Luther King, Jr. or Rosa Parks. In your essay, describe the specific ways this person's life and works were important and the ways they fought for Civil Rights.
  • Some people argued that the election of Barack Obama signified a major turning point in black history, while others argued that it did not really mean much about the status of race and race relations in the United States. Using what you know about Obama's life, rise to power, and presidency, write an essay justifying one or the other of these arguments.

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