Black joy

Black joy

Learning about Black history does not have to be a difficult task at all. In fact, there are many fun and interesting ways to celebrate Black history with your younger children, tweens, and teenagers all year long, and not just in February during Black History month.

Watching a Black history movie as a family, visiting art museums, taking an outdoor Black history tour of a neighborhood, attending a Black history theater performance for children, taking a cultural cooking class and learning about Black history through African American cuisine for tweens, or attending a cultural festival with older teens are a few of the many diverse ways to incorporate Black history curriculum into day-to-day family life in a way that everyone can enjoy. For families who prefer an online curriculum to supplement their Black history learning experiences, there are several fun and engaging virtual experiences that families can partake in as well. For example, “Black Histories, Black Futures” curated by Google Arts & Culture is an excellent virtual resource for families who want to learn more about the vast spectrum of Black history from the comfort of their own homes.

Black Americans’ contributions to art, history, science, and more keep America’s heart beating.

—Latasha Hyatt, George Washington Carver Interpretive Museum Director of Community Programming

“One of the biggest benefits of teaching the next generation Black history is that they will know that Black history is American history,” says Latasha Hyatt, director of community programming at the George Washington Carver Interpretive Museum in Dothan, Alabama. “You cannot have one without the other. Black Americans’ contributions to art, history, science, and more keep America’s heart beating. The contributions of Black people have been the sustaining force in this country since the beginning, and every child needs to know that.”

Teaching Black history to children and teens needs to be a lifestyle—and not just something to focus on one month out of the year. “When we’re talking about American history, we often only see that history through one lens, and we’re conditioned to forget the lens of who Black people really are, and where they came from,” says Flavia Zuñiga-West, an art educator and the founder of Adding Voices, a platform and conference for art educators of the global majority who identify as being Black, brown, or Indigenous. “There are so many stories that haven’t been told. So, when thinking about Black history or Black artists, it’s important to understand that they are sharing perspectives.”

Parents, especially white parents who want to raise anti-racist, anti-biased children, need to be able to have what Rudine Sims Bishop, Ph.D. calls “mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors.” Teaching history to children through art, books, performances and so on teaches children how to see themselves, and how to see others. “What the mirror is for a Black child, is for them to see themselves beautifully reflected in art and books, and this provides a ‘window’ for a white child to see their friends, their classmates, and their lives beautifully depicted,” says Zuñiga-West. “It also shows children that the lives of Black people are not just trauma. Their lives are filled with joy, beauty, and family, and that understanding is a foundation to connect to one another. This is the ‘sliding door’ that we enter in and out of each other’s lives through, making connections and building community.”

Perception shapes reality, and when parents and guardians are deliberate and enthusiastic about learning history, it makes learning as a family so much more enjoyable.

Black History Activities for Younger Kids

Attend a child’s museum, family theater show, or cultural art class

Children’s museums, art projects, and children’s books are a great way to share history with younger children. “As a mother, I think cultivating love and joy is so important for every child, especially when teaching children to learn their history as well as the history of others,” says Zuñiga-West. “But for Black people, that ‘Black joy’ is a form of resistance, and we can use art and art making as a way to do that with our children. Art is a beautiful way of showing Black children, and children in general, that Black people are beautiful, and that our stories and the stories of our families move us forward and liberate us as well.”

Below are some examples of in-person and virtual experiences that can be appreciated by families of younger children all year long.

  • PBS.org offers a “Celebrate Black Leaders” educational content series that features an online list of craft ideas, activities, and curriculum for young children ages 2-8 to enjoy all throughout the year.

  • Attend a local kid-friendly art exhibit, like “Tenacity & Resilience: The Art of Jerry Pinkney“—which showcases the famous art illustrator who archived Black history in his art illustrations for children’s books—at the Montclair Museum of Art in Montclair, New Jersey.

  • Children’s educational podcasts, such as Noodle Loaf, Adventures of Cairo, and African Folktakes With Miss Jo Jo, are an excellent way to keep younger learners virtually immersed in cultural stories that feature aspects of Black history.

  • Representation definitely matters, and shows like: Karma’s World, Ada Twist Scientist, Gabby’s Dollhouse, Alma’s Way, and Motown Magic are a light-hearted, fun way to showcase diverse ethnic and cultural representation for younger viewers.

  • Songs are a really fun way for kids to digest information, and Sesame Street and Songs For Teaching have singing videos that showcase Black history, while keeping the little ones entertained.

  • Get a fun subscription from the Because of Them We Can Box, where you can choose books that explore Black history and beyond.

  • Treat your child to a lived cultural experience in their hometown, or nearby community, or maybe even take them to a historically Black restaurant like Sylvia’s Restaurant in Harlem, New York, and Nana’s Kitchen in Dallas, Texas to experience traditional “soul food.”

  • For the little foodies and future chefs, visit Eboneats and research fun cooking classes to take either in person or online with your child, or possibly research and attend an immersive experience like African/American: Making The Nation’s Table where kids can experience stepping into a kitchen from the past by entering the “Ebony Magazine Test Kitchen,” or a similar experience in your area.

Black History Activities for Tweens

Attend a cultural book festival, visit A cultural institution, or start a book club

Most tweens love their newfound independence, making their own decisions, and expressing their personalities. “Cultural events and museums are a great way to engage both tweens and teens, because they like to talk and they want to be heard,” says Hyatt. “So, as long as you can make the information applicable to their current lifestyle and allow them to share their perspective, once you get them out of their shell, they will stay engaged. Making the information applicable to their current world also connects them to information and makes it feel more personal and not so removed from the present.” Many towns in states across the U.S. have book festivals, cultural festivals, and performing arts events that highlight the contributions of Black people to this country. Read on for examples of Black history activities for tweens.

Black History Activities for Teenagers

Take an online course, go on a cultural excursion, or visit a research institution or memorial

For teenagers, there are so many possibilities and opportunities for learning more about Black history. With busy school schedules and extracurricular activities, online courses are an excellent way to supplement Black history curriculum. Charlecia Joy, art educator and founder of Stapledon Arts, an organization that focuses on inspiring arts professionals through the lens of arts education, shares that when teaching Black history to teens, “It’s important to reference artwork that represents and reflects the students. It’s so important that they can see themselves through the work, especially as they are shaping their identities around this age. And so when I teach high schoolers, I show them works from artists like Kerry James Marshall, Jordan Casteel, and Faith Ringgold, just to name a few of the artists that they can look towards to see themselves, the history, and visualize the connections to our people.” When teaching Black history it’s important to understand that images matter.