Black History IS American History

K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

We are made by history. In this activity, youth read the stories of philanthropic African Americans and influential related events that made America what it is today. Then they create a virtual Pop-Up Museum as an advocacy service project in which they tell stories of Black history and philanthropy.

Photo Credit: Ruby Bridges first african-american to attend a white elementary school in the South Nov 14th 1960 by Neil Mohr is licensed under CC by 4.0 

PrintOne 50-Minute session, plus time for a project

The learners will...

  • gain awareness of historical accounts involving African Americans.
  • recognize that the story of America involves contributions of diverse Americans.
  • supplies for making a Pop-Up Museum, including pictures, articles, boxes, and craft supplies
Teacher Preparation 

Use the attached PowerPoint to guide classroom discussion.


Why are the stories of diverse Americans considered OUR stories, even when they don't share each person's faith or ethnicity?


  1. Anticipatory Set

    We are made by history. It defines us and instructs ongoing decision-making. History is made by many voices and experiences.

    For older youth, ask, "What are some of the stories from American history that define who we are?" Brainstorm a list of major historical influences like the practices of Indigenous Peoples, the Revolutionary War and Declaration of Independence, the Industrial Revolution, The Civil Rights Movement, the Suffragist Movement, and more recent events like 9/11, Black Lives Matter, and gun violence.

    For younger children, say, "Our country is made up of people from all over the world whose families settled here, were brought here or were already here. Just like our families tell stories of our past, people in our country have histories, and together the stories are all of OUR histories.  

  2. Part One - Our history is philanthropic.

    One of the things that is shared in American culture is philanthropy. From the Native Americans' ethic of community, to the enslaved people collaborating to survive, to suffragists advocating for women's rights, to survivors helping victims of disaster, our instinct is to come together for the common good.

    Define philanthropy as "giving time, talent, or treasure and taking action for the common good." People from all faiths, economic levels, and ethnic backgrounds in America have the desire to work together for the common good and help others. Look for attitudes and actions of philanthropy in the brainstormed list above. Discuss examples of ways people have acted for the common good. 

  3. Part Two: Some American historical events, like The Civil Rights Movement, are our shared stories that are primarily told through African American voices. Participants learn about an influential black American philanthropist and teach the story to others. See details below.

  4. The learners select one person from the following list or another prominent African American. They work in small groups to research the person and have a discussion as a whole class. Younger children work together to learn about the same person. Older youth each choose a different person for their group to research.

    Discuss: Describe the contribution, impact, and role they played in the civil society sector in history.

    1. John Lewis
    2. Martin Luther King
    3. Thurgood Marshall
    4. Shirley Chisholm
    5. Madam CJ Walker
    6. Henrietta Lacks
    7. Ruby Bridges
    8. Langston Hughes
    9. Maya Angelou
    10. James Weldon Johnson
  5. Learners research and highlight one act, impact, or achievement of the individual, especially one that benefits the common good. Each group will share information and a picture of the person [on the white board]. 


    • How these people impacted society and helped us all.
    • Why their stories are our history as a country. Black history is our history. 
    • How can the stories of diverse Americans be considered OUR stories, when any one story is unique to that person's experience, faith, or ethnicity?
  6. Service Project

    This service project may be completed over several days, either with the group or with friends and family. The museum may be a virtual event made up of individual videos or images.

    Project Overview:

    A Pop-Up Museum is an informative multimedia illustration of events, people, or things that occurred around a theme or time. Illustrations may include headlines, artifacts, articles, pictures, short stories and activities to tell the story about African American History. The pop-up museum will be flexible enough to post virtually or travel to different venues. Senior citizens and elementary, middle school, and high school students are all great audiences for the pop-up museum. The youth may be docents who describe their parts of the pop-up museum.

Cross Curriculum 
  • Read the graphic novel March by John Lewis (or online accounts)
  • Read The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles (or online accounts)


Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Define philanthropy as individuals and organizations providing their time, talent, and/or treasures intended for the common good throughout history and around the world. Give examples.
      2. Benchmark MS.4 Give examples of how individuals have helped others.
    2. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.6 Explain why acting philanthropically is good for the community, state, nation, or world.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark MS.3 Give political and historic reasons why civil society groups have formed in the nation and world.
      2. Benchmark HS.4 Describe and give examples of characteristics of someone who helps others.
      3. Benchmark E.4 Describe the characteristics of someone who helps others.
      4. Benchmark MS.4 Describe the characteristics of someone who helps others.
      5. Benchmark HS.5 Describe civil society advocacy organizations and their relationship to human rights.
    2. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Analyze philanthropic traditions of diverse cultural groups and their contributions to civil society.
      2. Benchmark MS.1 Examine several examples of philanthropic traditions practiced in diverse cultures.
      3. Benchmark E.1 Give examples of philanthropic traditions of diverse cultures.
      4. Benchmark HS.5 Describe how women and minority groups have used the civil society sector as an alternative power structure.
      5. Benchmark MS.7 Identify women and minorities who are or have been leaders in the civil society sector.
    3. Standard PCS 06. Philanthropy in History
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Explain the role of philanthropy in major themes and social issues in the nation's history.
    4. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Utilize the persuasive power of written or oral communication as an instrument of change in the community, nation or the world.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.10 Identify reasons why historic figures acted for the common good.
      2. Benchmark HS.10 Identify reasons why historic figures acted for the common good.
      3. Benchmark E.10 Identify reasons why historic figures acted for the common good.