What am I going to Teach about Black History?
By Ashley Causey-Golden

Black history month is here and the question that comes into many of our minds is, “What am I going to teach about Black history?” Let’s pause right there and talk about that desire to teach about Black history within only a month. It is often in that rush to highlight while trying to “do it right” we cram as many notable Black individuals into a month with only 19 instructional days…and that is if your school has no days off.

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We flood children’s minds with facts, dates, faces in the form of crafts, books, and projects, and children do not get to experience such vigor of Black representation until the next school year.

This approach is unbalanced and sends an unintentional message. Black History is not seasonal, but we as educators and parents treat it like a seasonal holiday that gets packed away as soon as the month concludes. The Black narrative disappears. Our focus shifts to address the other holidays and celebrations.

So how do we shift our conversation this Black history month, and every month to keep Black history centered?

Uncovering and Discovering Genius

I invite you to listen to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “The Danger of a Single Story”. I start here because what is our single-story when we are talking about Black History Month?

I start here because I believe that squeezing all that we can about Black history into a single month constrains us. We tend to bring a simplified single story to light instead of many diverse and nuanced interactions with materials that need centering year round.

Where we start matters and it has profound effects on the children we are teaching in the areas of identity, self-esteem, and their psychological well-being. You won't see these “unseen” aspects of self on a test or a part of an educational standard but you will be able to see its effects. When children have a healthy dose of self, they are able to make better choices when it comes to the care of their body, their ability to trust their intuition and to believe in their abilities and dreams.

Identity work starts at birth and continues through adulthood, but the years from birth to age six are crucial for children. During these years, children are working to answer the foundational question, “Who am I?” It is important for children to answer that question for themselves rather than having parents and educators tell a child who he or she is in terms of race, gender, personal likes, dislikes, etc.

Even if you are not explicitly telling children who they are, the environment that you create can implicitly do that. Being intentional with the books, television shows, learning materials, and toys that come into your home or learning space is a necessary step in creating an environment with multiple touch points that represent themselves beyond the narrative of racism, marginalization, prejudice, slavery, poverty, and oppression. Our intentionality can provide Black children with a healthy start on their journey to answer the question: “Who am I?”

The How

Many times we read or hear an amazing idea or strategy to use in the classroom but the lingering question becomes how. How do I implement this into my classroom or home?

Dr. Gholdy Muhammad, the author of Cultivating Genius, helps us as parents and educators uncover and discover genius with Black history past and present with her Culturally and Historically Responsive Education (CHRE) Model. Her five points are: identify development, skills, criticality, intellectualism, and joy. These guiding questions from Dr. Muhammad help anchor us in our decision process to clarify our why. Why are we choosing this material, book, or lesson plan? What are we hoping that students receive from this lesson?

Identify Development

How does my instruction help students to learn about themselves and others who are different from them?


How does my instruction help students to learn the skills and standards for my content?


How does my instruction help students to learn new knowledge and concepts?


How does my instruction help students to understand power, equity, social justice, anti-racism, and anti-oppression?


How does my instruction enable and amplify joy?

I like how Dr. Muhammad's last point is joy. Joy is one of the most important aspects to remember because when we teach the full history of the global majority there is pain, oppression, and genocide. However,  we can acknowledge and celebrate the abundance of joy,  resistance,  healing, and community. As parents and teachers, it is our duty to show the expansiveness of a culture’s identity. How are you working towards creating a healthy start on the journey of “Who am I?” for the children in your life?

 Ashley Causey-Golden is the creator of Afrocentric Montessori, and the co-founder of Gather Forest  School in Atlanta, Georgia. She has 13 years of experience teaching early childhood and three years of experience as a Montessori educator.

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By Ashley Causey-Golden