February is Black History Month, where we honor the triumphs and struggles of African Americans and Black individuals throughout U.S. history. Black History Month for preschoolers can be a time to learn about equality, perseverance, and the stories of individuals in Black History that have shaped our society. Commonly discussed influential historical figures such as Frederick Douglass, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, and President Barack Obama undoubtedly have lives and influential contributions to celebrate, but are accompanied by many other influential Black individuals who have made extensive impact in the United States. As you dive into Black History Month with your children, why not learn about some of the kids who have helped change the world for the better?
Ruby Bridges and the McDonogh Three
Most Black history lessons cover Ruby Bridges, the six-year-old girl who was the first to desegregate William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans. What is usually not discussed is that she was not the only child to integrate a New Orleans school that same day. While she attended William Frantz alone, three other children were attending McDonogh No. 19 Elementary School.
Leona Tate, Gail Etienne, and Tessie Prevost entered their new school on November 14, 1960, and got their first look at what were supposed to be their new classmates. However, white parents quickly removed their children from the school, resulting in these three girls being McDonogh No. 19’s only students for the next two years. They were protected by U.S. Marshals as they attended school for first and second grades. For third grade, they transferred to T.J. Semmes School, where they were joined by twenty other Black students and thus could enjoy a safer environment.
Today, the Leona Tate Foundation for Change is on a mission to “promote, improve and enhance racial equality through various avenues of education” and to “empower and enrich our communities from a spiritual, multicultural, economical, historical and social perspective.”
Learn more at https://www.leonatatefoundation.org/.
Another girl whose memory is often overshadowed by a more famous activist, Claudette Colvin was 15 years old when she became the first Black person to refuse to give up her seat on a bus. She was riding home from school in the Black section of the bus, but if the white section got full, Black passengers were expected to give up their seats to white passengers. Claudette refused. When the police came and tried to convince her to move, she shouted, “It’s my constitutional right!” upon which she was arrested and taken to jail. The local NAACP chapter decided to follow her example, and selected Rosa Parks to be the face of the movement. With the support of Martin Luther King Jr. and other Black leaders, Colvin was one of three plaintiffs in Browder v. Gayle, in which it was ultimately ruled that bus segregation was unconstitutional.
Colvin later recalled about that day, “History kept me stuck to my seat. I felt the hand of Harriet Tubman pushing down on one shoulder and Sojourner Truth pushing down on the other.” Nine months later, Rosa Parks performed her brave act of defiance in a similar fashion. Claudette Colvin and Rosa Parks maintained a close mentoring relationship in following years through the NAACP youth chapter.
There was a problem with the water in Mari Copeny’s town of Flint, Michigan, and the eight-year-old knew just what to do about it. She wrote a letter to then-President Barack Obama, asking him to visit Flint and witness the water crisis firsthand. President Obama accepted the request, and afterward declared a state of emergency and granted funds to help the people of Flint. Copeny is now 14 years old and continues to raise funds for a variety of charitable projects to help communities across the United States that are dealing with toxic water.
Learn more at https://www.maricopeny.com/.
Little League became officially open to girls as well as boys in 1973 when a judge ordered it, but relatively few girls have participated over the years. Twelve-year-old Mo’ne Davis was one of them. In 2014 she was the first girl to ever record a win (as pitcher) in a Little League World Series (LLWS) game. She pitched a shutout game, meaning she did not allow the opposing team to score a single run. Although there are no statistics available on exactly how often a shutout game occurs in the LLWS, it is an unusual accomplishment for any pitcher.
At age four, Mikaila Ulmer was stung by a bee. The experience made her fearful of bees, but also fascinated by how important they are to the ecosystem. Around the same time, her grandmother sent her a cookbook featuring her special lemonade recipe. Ulmer decided to start a lemonade stand using her grandma’s recipe and honey from local beekeepers, and to donate 10% of her profits to organizations that helped to save honeybees. It was so delicious and unique that a local restaurant requested to sell it, leading Ulmer to begin bottling her concoction. From there, business took off! She appeared on Shark Tank and secured a $60,000 investment, officially founded Me & the Bees Lemonade, and then established The Healthy Hive Foundation.
Learn more at https://www.healthyhivefoundation.org/.
Twelve-year-old Marley Dias was dismayed when she realized that all of the books her teacher assigned were about “white boys and dogs.” Why shouldn’t Black girls like her see themselves represented in the books they read? Dias set out to make a change. She created #1000BlackGirlBooks, a book drive with the goal of collecting 1,000 books with Black girls as the main characters, which would then be donated to schools so that Black girls everywhere could have access to them. The drive ended up collecting more than 9,000 books in its initial run. Now Dias’ project includes a database of books about Black girls, the ability to request books for populations in need, and – of course – opportunities to donate books to the cause.
Learn more at https://www.marleydias.com/1000blackgirlbooks/.
Nyeeam Hudson was one of many ten-year-old boys who experienced bullying. Unlike many others, however, he found his voice and is using it to help children around the world. Known on Instagram as King NAHH, he posts videos with inspirational messages designed to promote love, empathy, and acceptance for all people. He also travels as a motivational speaker, encouraging kindness and offering support to children who are dealing with bullying. He is currently working on a book to “encourage young males to believe in themselves as kings of greatness.”
Learn more at https://kingnahh.com/pages/booking.
Black History Month for Preschoolers
While February is dedicated to the celebration of the influence and central role of Black and African American individuals, we recognize that Black history is American history. Kids’ Care Club is committed to infusing Black history and celebration of diversity into our curriculum and lesson plans year-round. A key pinnacle of our approach to early childhood education and our NAEYC accreditation is employing an anti-bias approach to curriculum. This month, make a habit of celebrating the achievements and historical perspectives with your preschooler on the history of all. Head on over to the Black History Month Pinterest Board for various Black history month activities to continue the learning of influential historical figures at home.