Inspire your students to explore black history and culture through writing. Present any of these engaging writing prompts in your middle school or high school classroom during Black History Month or beyond. Each activity requires students to inquire about the people, places, events, and issues that have shaped African-American history.
Writing a Historical Dialogue
Ask your students to imagine what a conversation would be like between them and a significant African-American contributor to social studies, science, math, or English. What would they ask? What would they want to know?
Present them with the following lists of famous figures and encourage them to choose a person they don't know much about. Then have them research the figure and create a dialogue (written conversation) between themselves and the person. The dialogue should discuss important experiences in the person’s life and work.
Use this minilesson to help your students create a historical dialogue.
Writing an Arts & Performance Review
Discuss the significance of the Harlem Renaissance, an era in the 1920s and 30s that is considered a golden age for African-American art, music, dance, and literature. Show this video to give a brief overview of the period.
Then ask your students to pretend that they are entertainment critics in New York City during this era. Explain that their editor (you) has assigned them to write a review of a special piece of art from the period. Have them choose between the following options, or allow them to seek other art and entertainment from the period:
Have students complete background research on the artist, writer, musician, or performance they chose. Then assign a written review in which students do the following tasks:
- Give their opinions of the art or performance.
- Give examples from the art or performance to support their views.
- Use specific details to describe something special about the sights, sounds, colors, or words.
- Provide background information about the artist, writer, performer, or genre.
- Describe how the piece fits within the larger culture of the Harlem Renaissance.
Use this minilesson to help your students write an arts and performance review.
Writing a List Poem
Help your students create list poems, which playfully explore a topic by listing people, places, things, or ideas. Often the title says what the list is about. Advise students that list poems do not necessarily need to include rhythm or rhyme, but each word should be carefully chosen and memorable.
Present the example below. Then ask students to write their own list poems based on the same title, or allow them to choose different topics related to Black History Month.
Black History Is
Frederick at a lectern
Harriet along a railroad
Rosa aboard a bus
Martin amid a march
Thurgood inside a courtroom
Nine outside a schoolhouse
Jackie at the ball diamond
Mae beyond the Earth
Barack atop the polls
Use this minilesson to help your students write a list poem.
Debating the Issues
Many of the writers, artists, and political figures that drove African-American history did so by crafting powerful arguments. Inspire your students to build their own arguments about key issues by presenting them with the following debatable statements.
- African-Americans’ fight for social justice ended after the Civil Rights Movement.
- The Academy Awards need to do a better job of recognizing African-Americans’ contributions in cinema.
- Black History Month isn’t needed because black history is American history.
- Black culture is a lifestyle.
Ask students to pick a statement that they have strong feelings about. Do they agree or disagree? Have students research their topics to create argumentative essays that either support or counter the statements they've chosen. Introduce them to the 7 C’s for Building an Argument to help them develop their essays. Emphasize that students should consider both sides of the issue and support their own stance in a respectful manner.
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A List Of Impressive Black History Essay Topics
African Americans have a rich history, which Black History Month celebrates every February. Black people in America have made many tremendous contributions to art, science, music, and literature. Black History Month was first introduced in 1976 as an expansion of the earlier Black HIstory Week. It was actually first proposed in 1969 by students at Kent State University. Ever since then, it’s been a regular fixture in American culture. During February, school curricula often shift to a special focus on African American history and culture. Part of this curriculum often involves writing essays about Black History topics. There is quite a lot of content in the history of African-Americans, from the initial importation of West African slaves to modern issues of racial equality. It can almost be difficult to choose a topic, since there’s so much content to sort through.
Here’s a list of impressive Black History Essay topics, all of which will provide quite a bit of historical information that you can work with to create an A+ essay.
- African-American Soldiers in the American Revolution
- African-American Soldiers in the Civil War
- African-American Soldiers in World War 2
- Crispus Attucks
- History of the African Baptist Church
- Harlem Renaissance
- George Washington Carver
- Rosa Parks
- The Underground Railroad
- Frederick Douglass
- Slave Narratives
- The Great Migration
- Tuskegee Airmen
- Secret schools for slaves in the Antebellum South
- Colin Powell
- Condoleeza Rice
- W.E.B. Du Bois
- Toni Morrison
- The History of African-American Literature
- Langston Hughes
- Walter Francis White
- Zora Neale Hurston
- Countee Cullen
- Helene Johnson
- Duke Ellington
- Prentiss Taylor
- History of the Apollo Theatre
- History of African-American Art
- History of Blues Music
- History of Jazz
- Women in the Civil Rights Movement
- African-American Poetry
- Jim Crow Laws in the American South
- Influence of West African Cultures
- Conditions for Slaves during the MIddle Passage
- Afro-Caribbean History
- African-Americans and the Second Great Awakening
- Harriet Beecher Stowe
- Radical Republicans and the End of Slavery
- The Life of Former Slaves After the Civil War
- The Haitian Revolution
- The History and Evolution of Hip-Hop
- Bill Cosby
- The History and Formation of African-American Cultural Identity
- Blanche K. Bruce
- Poll Taxes, Literacy Tests, and Black Voter Turnout in the South
- Tenant Farming in the Postwar South
This is really only a tiny fraction of the many, many topics available for Black HIstory Month essays. Some of these topics can also be narrowed down considerably. For example, when talking about the Harlem Renaissance, you could focus on visual art, theatre, poetry, or political thought. You can also examine the factors that led to it. Overall, you should easily be able to find the perfect essay topic about Black History.