National Writing Project

NWP Resources for African American History Month

Date: February 2019

Summary: As February marks African American History Month, the National Writing Project celebrates black history with these resources by teacher-consultants and guest speakers at NWP events.


Patricia Smith discusses how African American children can lose their valuable histories in order to learn to speak "right."

African American History Month was started in the 1920s, when Harvard-trained historian Carter G. Woodson, who believed that truth could not be denied and that reason would prevail over prejudice, sought to raise awareness of African Americans' contributions to civilization.

The response was overwhelming: black history clubs sprang up; teachers demanded materials to instruct their pupils; and progressive whites stepped forward to endorse the effort.

Nearly a century later, the documentation and scholarship of African American history also includes a wealth of resources by National Writing Project teacher-consultants and NWP's guest speakers. Below are their resources, along with those culled from other history and educational websites.

Patricia Smith: "How Do We Lose Our Own Voices?"
In her keynote at the 2010 Urban Sites Network Conference, poet Patricia Smith recounted her mother's life story as she discussed how African American children can lose their valuable histories in order to learn to speak "right."

Lee Anne Bell Counters the "Stock Stories" of Race and Racism
Lee Anne Bell was a different kind of storyteller at the 2011 Rural Sites Network Conference. She discussed how she examines and categorizes stories about race and racism in order to create what she calls "transformative stories."

Writing Improves African American Students' Grades
This article describes research that supports the claim that targeted psychological intervention, in the form of writing that encourages self-affirmation, has the effect of improving the academic performance of African American students.

African American Oral Histories Cataloged in The HistoryMakers Digital Archive
The HistoryMakers is an online digital archive of interviews with both well-known and unsung African Americans who shaped history. This resource, which originated in NWP's Digital Is, outlines the useful features of the video archive which make it a great tool in the classroom.

Responsible Citizenship in a Global Environment
In her keynote speech at the 2009 NWP Spring Meeting, Jacqueline Jones Royster, professor of English at The Ohio State University, discusses how teachers have the responsibility of being agents and enablers of both stability and change.

African American Learners Project Annotated Bibliography
This collection of readings reflects the contributions of the Thinking and Development Team for the African American Learners Project. These readings are intended to inform the thinking and practice of teacher-consultants and Writing Project sites interested in addressing the racial gap in student achievement.

Possible Lives: The Promise of Education in America
In this chapter, excerpted from Mike Rose's Possible Lives: The Promise of Education in America, Rose takes an in-depth look at the classroom work of Writing Project teacher Stephanie Terry as she integrates the study of science and language arts in her first grade Baltimore classroom, all the while advancing the cultural knowledge and understanding of her thirty African American students.

Brown v. Board of Education at 50: The Long and Winding Road to Educational Equity
In the keynote speech delivered at the 2004 NWP Spring Meeting, author Samuel Yette describes the historical contexts leading up to the 1954 Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education.

The Politics of Correction: How We Can Nurture Students in Their Writing
How do we help students gain fluency in Standard English without obliterating their home languages? The author provides some answers: through scientific assessment, structured minilessons, and respect for home language.

Gloria Ladson-Billings Reframes the Racial Achievement Gap
Gloria Ladson-Billings suggests reframing the idea of the racial achievement gap as one of educational debt in this address at the 2007 Urban Sites Network Conference in Washington, DC.

Helping African American Males Reach Their Academic Potential
Marlene Carter, associate director of the UCLA Writing Project, conducted a two-year study of African American males in her AP English class. The study helped her understand that these students underperform for different reasons and allowed her to focus on the real problems affecting their achievement.

Seeing Students, Seeing Culture, Seeing Ourselves
The authors of this article devise strategies to improve the writing skills of their African American students. They learn that the most important of these is "getting to know our kids and letting them know us."

How the Linguistic Repertoire of Students Can Color Teacher Perceptions
In his research, scholar Samy Alim explores the language of high school students and looks at how it affects their teachers' perceptions of them.

Baltimore's Youth Dreamers Have a Home: The Dream House
A cadre of Baltimore middle school students dreamed that they could help their urban neighborhood with a house where young kids could be mentored and participate in fun activities—and they made that dream a reality.

NWP Resources for Martin Luther King Day
NWP has collected these resources from teacher-consultants and other sources to enrich the study and celebration of the mission of Dr. Martin Luther King.

Books and Book Reviews

Book Review: Storytelling for Social Justice
Lee Anne Bell introduces the Storytelling Project model, a compelling antiracist curriculum designed to enable reflective and critical conversations about race and racism by examining the stories we tell.

Reading for Their Life: Poetic Broadsides
In this chapter from Reading for Their Life, Alfred Tatum shares poems and lessons in support of his argument that we should share "poetry worth reading" with African American male students.

Book Review: Young, Gifted, and Black: Promoting High Achievement Among African-American Students
After reading this collection of essays by three leading thinkers in African American education, Mary Tedrow, a teacher-consultant with the Northern Virginia Writing Project, realized that "the ideas and potential solutions embedded in this book have gone on largely unacknowledged."

Arthur Alfonso Schomburg: Black Bibliophile & Collector
This is the first full biography of the pioneering black collector whose search for the hidden records of the black experience led to the development of a research collection, now based in New York, which laid the foundation for the study of black history and culture.

Other Resources

Presidential Proclamation — National African American History Month
In a letter from the White House, President Obama recounts the tumultuous history of African Americans and calls for a celebration of their courage and tenacity.

African American History Month
The Library of Congress gives an overview of the origins of the National African American History month and its legal history.

Culture & Change: Black History in America
Meet famous African Americans, listen to jazz music, publish your own writing, and explore history with an interactive timeline from Scholastic.

Black History Month Collection features a collection of videos, speeches, and photo galleries of significance to Black History Month.

Celebrate Black History Month & People offers bios of historical and iconic figures in black history, along with a tour of the Apollo Theater and 101 fast facts.

National Alliance of Black School Educators
NABSE offers information and resources of interest to black school educators such as membership, an annual conference, professional development opportunities, and a twice-yearly journal that contains research and general interest articles, book reviews, and more.

Association for the Study of African American Life and History
This year the founders of Black History Month offer resources related to African Americans and the Civil War.

National African American Read-In
Schools, churches, libraries, bookstores, community and professional organizations, and interested citizens are urged to make literacy a significant part of Black History Month in this event sponsored by the Black Caucus of NCTE and NCTE.

The African American Migration Experience
In Motion: The African-American Migration Experience presents a new interpretation of African American history, one that focuses on the self-motivated activities of peoples of African descent to remake themselves and their worlds.

African American History Month (Library of Congress)
The Library of Congress pays tribute to the generations of African Americans who struggled with adversity to achieve full citizenship in American society.

Black History Month for Young Readers
Reading Rockets offers a wealth of reading-related resources, including activities for the classroom and recommended children's books, in celebration of Black History Month.

Celebrating Black History Month . . . Every Month is the largest online encyclopedia and social network dedicated to black history and culture.

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