February is Black History Month. When we teach our children about our past—the ugly parts included—we help them understand the world, other people, and themselves. Regardless of your racial background, the Black struggle for equality is all of our struggle.
The Individuals Who Shaped History
Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. will forever inspire us, but for children, sometimes the best way to understand slavery, the civil rights movement, and segregation is to learn the stories of African American heroes that did the things that kids do—play baseball and football, do ballet, make music, excel at science or math. The narrative format often makes it easier for us to connect with the experience of others in a way that history books don’t allow. For elementary-aged kids in particular, learning about the past through the stories of individuals who lived it can be a fantastic way to teach them.
Movies, Podcasts, and Books About Black Changemakers
Here is our list of some terrific movies, podcasts, and books that center on the lives of interesting and groundbreaking African Americans and touch on racism and the importance of diversity and inclusion.
The Color of Friendship
For rent/ purchase on Prime Video
This Disney movie takes place in 1977, where two girls—one white and one black—from different parts of the world become friends and change each other's lives. The movie addresses race, apartheid, and racial slurs.
A Ballerina’s Tale
Stream, rent, or purchase on Prime Video; Stream on DirectTV; Rent or buy on Google Play; Rent or buy on YouTube Movies
This documentary shares the story of Misty Copeland—the first African-American principal dancer in a major international ballet troupe. The movie depicts the adversity she faced in becoming one of the best dancers in the world.
Stream on Disney+; purchase on iTunes; Purchase or rent on YouTube; Purchase or rent on Prime Video
This movie is based on the true story of the 6-year-old girl selected to be the first Black child to attend an all-white school in New Orleans in 1960.
Rent or purchase on Prime Video; purchase on iTunes; Stream on Disney+
This movie is based on the true story of three Black women who worked for NASA in the 1950's doing complex math and engineering tasks to help launch the manned spaceflight program.
Remember the Titans
Stream on Disney+; Purchase or rent on iTunes; Rent or buy on Amazon; Rent or buy on DirectTV
This movie tells the story of the real-life integration of a Virginia high school team.
Bedtime History is not just Black history, but they have episodes on great African Americans like:
Hey Black Child is a podcast celebrating lesser known Black history heroes, as well as some famous historical names you’ll definitely recognize.
Everyday Black History highlights the contributions of Black men and women, past and present..
Black Cowboys podcast covers different black cowboys throughout history. Despite what Hollywood taught us, one-in-four cowboys were Black. Their stories tell a bigger, braver, more honest history of America. (*Some profanity.)
Teammates This book takes us back to 1947 when Jackie Robinson became the first African-American player in Major League Baseball. He was taunted and terrorized by baseball fans, opposing players, and even his teammates on the Brooklyn Dodgers. Historical photos and watercolor illustrations transport us to the fateful game when Pee Wee Reese, the Dodgers shortstop, embraced Robinson on the field as his teammate in front of a heckling crowd of spectators.
What Color Is My World?: The Lost History of African-American Inventors Did you know that African-American inventors had a hand in everything from the ice cream scoop and the refrigerated food truck to cortisone cream and open-heart surgery? In this book co-authored by NBA star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, kids can learn about the great minds behind important inventions, product improvements, and scientific and medical discoveries that we take for granted.
The Kidnapped Prince: The Life of Olaudah Equiano This is the true biography of Olaudah Equiano, an African prince who was kidnapped at age 11 and sold into slavery in England, the U.S., and the West Indies until he was able to buy his freedom more than a decade later. His best-selling autobiography was first published in 1789 and has been shortened and modernized in this version, which remains true to the gripping original script.
Fifty Cents and a Dream: Young Booker T. Washington This is a wonderful retelling of Booker T. Washington's hardship of wanting to learn to read and write as a child and him finally achieving that as an adult. It's a great story for young readers to learn more about slavery and emancipation but through the eyes of someone who lived through the experience.
Mae Among the Stars This inspiring story of Mae Jemison, the first African American woman to go to space, is perfect for young children and girls especially. It speaks of Jemison's childhood dreams to be an astronaut and how she paved the way for herself to be able to achieve her goal when she grew up.
Thank you for reading. We love to hear your reactions! Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts and comments!