Ideas for Incorporating the Music of African Americans during Black History Month and throughout the Year

Have a great classroom activity or lesson plan for Black History Month you’d like to share with fellow music teachers? Send it to nafme@nafme.org to be published. Check out the following articles for ideas for your music program throughout the year.

Thinking Outside the Box for Black History Month

February is the annual celebration of the lives, work, and influence of Black Americans to U.S. history and culture. Black History Month becomes more specific to musicians as we celebrate musicians of African descent (Black) and their contributions to the world of music. These musicians have music of various genres, both idiomatic and non-idiomatic. It is then important to honor their unique contributions as the artists and composers have been trained both in the classroom and in the world.

African American History in the Music Classroom

Learn how NAfME member Sharen Bolder introduced a chronological survey of eleven African American performing artists in her middle school general music classroom and the topics they discussed.

Black History

Do you know who each of the musicians above are? Find out if you are correct!

Lessons in Our Shared History through Music

On the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., NAfME member Stephen Holley shares how educators can help students understand more deeply about the music they are learning. “If an instrumentalist can recognize the pain behind a melody, the joy behind a groove, and the nobility of a fanfare, the performance can only benefit from that knowledge! And your students will benefit, too.”

Black History Month Classroom Ideas from NAfME Members

General music classroom ideas include “What Can One Little Person Do?”, celebrating the lives of Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr., and  the song “Martin Luther King” shared by Tony Award-winner Lin-Manuel Miranda. 

Suggested Resources for Teaching Global Music

“Immersive study of a musical culture can increase more than a student’s knowledge.” The January 2019 issue of Teaching Music magazine includes an article, “Toward a Greater Understanding,” on teaching global music. Following are additional resources for teaching global music.

Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Jazz Fundamentals Series

Jazz at Lincoln Center is excited to offer a series of Jazz Fundamentals videos. Join drummer Bryan Carter and his band as they explore, explain, and perform some of the basic concepts of Jazz in a fun and swinging set!

blues

Lesson Plans for Black History Month

February is Black History Month. Explore the many contributions of African Americans with several cross-curricular lessons, printables, quizzes, and activities below! Utilize these resources for grades K-12.

black history month
iStockphoto.com | Ljupco

How Jazz and the Civil Rights Movement Intertwine

Jazz is the low moan of a saxophone, the growl of a trumpet, or staccato notes on a snare drum. Jazz at Lincoln Center (JALC) describes the art form as “a mingling of the musical expressions of all the people who came to the United States, by choice or by force; people from Africa, Europe, Latin America, as well as people who were already living in the U.S. Jazz was created by mixing together music from field chants and spirituals, to African rhythms and folk songs.”

Further reading:

100 Historic Black Women Guitarists and Bassists You Need to Know,” She Shreds, 13 February 2020.

Stephen Raskauskas, “9 Living Black Composers You Need to Know,” WMFT, 22 June 2015.

Alex Ross, “The Rediscovery of Florence Price,” New Yorker, 5 February 2018. 

James Sullivan, “30 Times Black Music Changed the World,” Pandora blog, 1 June 2018.

Briana Younger, “Black Musicians on Being Boxed in by R&B and Rap Expectations: ‘We Fit in So Many Things,’” Pitchfork, 28 September 2017.

Learn more about African American History Month from the Smithsonian, the Library of Congress, and other resources.

Brandi Waller-Pace, “Black Educators’ Thoughts on Black History Month Programs,” Decolonize the Music Room, 21 January 2020.

Adriana Diaz, “Violinist inspiring others by celebrating Black composers,” CBS News, 17 January 2020. Learn more about the initiative Music by Black Composers.

Black History Month: Black Excellence Trilogy: Music Producers, BET. See also: Opera, Soul Singers, and Camille Thurman.

John Lewis, “Ten black composers whose works deserve to be heard more often,” The Guardian (London), 2 June 2015.

James Bennett, II, “Black Classical: Composers and Conductors Who Shaped Music History,” WQXR Blog, 13 February 2017.

Brian Wise and the WNYC Data News Team, “Timeline: A History of Black Classical Musicians,” WQXR, 31 January 2013.

Classics for Kids, “Spotlight on Black Composers,” WQXR Podcast, 23 February 2013.

Kara McLeland, “These Seven Black Composers Made Classical Music History,” Nashville Public Radio, 1 February 2017.

Share your classroom ideas on Amplify today.