Classroom Activities:
Celebrate African American History

The 100th Day of School
The 100th Day of School falls in January or February, depending on the date of your school's first day. With Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in January and February being Black History Month, the 100th Day of School is perfect for celebrating African American history.

Chisholm Trail Mural
More than 5,000 black cowboys rode the Chisholm Trail in the late 1800s. To celebrate this important era in history, have each child bring in a bag containing 100 pieces of one ingredient to mix together for a delicious and nutritious trail mix. Chocolate chips, pretzel sticks, cereal squares, and raisins are a good start. While students much on their tasty treat, distribute 100 clipart items to color and add to a Chisholm Trail mural such cactus, rocks, lizards, and snakes. Also distribute 100 clipart cows to color. After counting the items and adding them to the mural, sing favorite cowboy songs such as "Home on the Range."

Display 100 pictures of artwork created by African Americans in the arts.

Display 100 book jackets of pictures of books written by African Americans or about African American history.

Trace each child's footprint on construction paper. Then assign each one a name of an African American of distinction. Have each child write the name on the footprint and take home to research and find out what that person did. On the same side as the name, have children write down one sentence about why that person is famous. Collect these footprints until you have 100. For the 100th day of school, tape the footprints end to end in the school hall for everyone to see as they walk past.

Make an individual book for each child from a cover of a piece of 9 x 12-inch construction paper folded in half. Insert five blank sheets of paper and staple along the outside edge along the fold of the construction paper to form a book. Starting 10 days before the 100th day, list 10 African Americans for each child to write on the front of the first page of the book. Assign as homework to research and write down at least one fact about each person. On the second day, list 10 more names of African Americans on the back side of the first page. Repeat the assignment until each student has a list of 100 famous African Americans and a fact about each one.

Class Alphabet Book
Assign each student one alphabet letter. (In smaller classes, some students will have more than one letter. In larger classes, several students may have the same letter.) Distribute a matching piece of paper to each student. Have each student write down and illustrate at least one person or object associated with African American history that begins with that letter. Assemble these pages into a classroom book.

Classroom Quilt
Give each student one paper square. (Be sure that when assembled on a bulletin board, the squares will all fit.) Have students each write down one amazing fact from African American history on their paper and illustrate it. Mount squares together on the wall to form a patchwork quilt.

Hall of Fame
Give each student an 8-inch paper star. Depending on the grade-level and computer skills of your classroom, help students locate on the Internet or provide small portraits printed out of various notable African Americans. Have students choose one portrait to glue in the center of their star. Instruct them to write the person's name on the top point of the star. On each of the remaining four points, write facts about that person. Mount stars together on a bulletin board labeled "African American Hall of Fame."

Calendar
Celebrate African American history all through the year! Organize students to help you make your own class calendar using such resources as www.aaregistry.com or The Timetables of African-American History by Sharon Harley (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995). Or purchase a calendar from the African American Museum in Philadelphia (www.aampmuseum.org). Each day share with students about an important event or individual who made their mark in history.

Famous Speeches
Divide older students into small groups. Have each group research a speech given by a different famous African American. (Use books for research such as Great Speeches by African Americans, edited by James Daley.) Distribute butcher paper to each group to make a life-sized portrait of the person. For added interest, they can staple portrait to a matching piece of butcher paper and stuff with shredded paper to form a life size 3-D model. Sit models in chairs around the room. Assign the following tasks to each group:
  • One student present bibliographical information about that person.
  • One student present background information about where and when that speech took place.
  • One student share a short portion of the speech.
Celebrate the Arts
Assign each student to write a report about a famous African American in the arts. Then, using a similar art form that person was noted for, have student create an original piece of art to share with the class.

School Display
Create an African American history display of student work and display it in the school library or multipurpose room for students of all levels to enjoy. Include the following suggestions:
  • Life-sized portraits of famous African Americans drawn on butcher paper
  • Original art created using the same medium famous black artists used
  • Portraits of African Americans of distinction along with their biographies
  • Examples of inventions created by African Americans
  • For more classroom activity suggestions to use in your display, see A Kid's Guide to African American History: With Over 70 Activities by Nancy I. Sanders (Chicago Review Press, Second Edition, 2007)
Share Your Ideas
Do you have a classroom activity that celebrates African American history and achievement?
E-mail your idea to Nancy along with your first name and the name of the state where you live for potential listing on this website.