African American History


African American History introduces students to some of the notable historical figures and events surrounding the history of African Americans. Students will discover and explain the influence of these great people and events on America.

This would be a great lesson to deliver in February during Black History Month. The “Options for Lesson” sections contains many other suggestions or ideas that you can add to the lesson or use as alternatives. One such suggestion is to have students choose an event or person to research and present the information they gathered to the class.

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What our African American History lesson plan includes

Lesson Objectives and Overview: African American History teaches students about some of the major events and key figures relating to the history of African Americans. Students will be able to identify these key figures and summarize important events. They will also be able to explain how such people and events influenced America and American society. This lesson is for students in 5th grade and 6th grade.

Classroom Procedure

Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the yellow box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand. This lesson requires colored pencils, paper, and poster or construction paper. Students also need internet access.

Options for Lesson

In the “Options for Lesson” section of the classroom procedure page, you will see some suggestions for additional activities or ideas to add to the lesson if you want to. Students may work alone or in groups for the activity. As another activity, assign students one or two events to highlight. Students choose one event or person and research additional information and later present their findings to the class. Plan the lesson during Black History Month in February. Students research quotes from influential African American leaders and present them to the class. Each student takes on the role of an African American leader and the leaders “meet” and discuss civil rights in America. Conduct a debate on whether all people in America today are treated fairly and equally.

Teacher Notes

The paragraph on this page provides a little more information or guidance on what to expect from the lesson. It reminds you that many students may yet be unaware of some of the important African American events and people throughout history. You can use the blank lines to record any thoughts or ideas you have as you prepare.



The African American History lesson plan contains five content pages. There are many people who have been a part of American history from before the birth of the United States to the present day. One group of people, who were mostly the descendants of slaves, is the African Americans. Slaves were the people who were brought from Africa by force to work in the New World. They had very few rights, were treated poorly, and were denied a share in the progress of America. However, African Americans have made many lasting contributions to American history and culture.

African American people were often referred to as Blacks and Negros (Spanish for black) during their time of slavery. When they were freed, many chose the word colored. Later, the word negro became acceptable as the rightfully freed people migrated to the North for jobs in factories. Later, the term Afro-American was used, and then the term black became more popular again. In the late 1980s, Jesse Jackson, an American civil rights leader, proposed the term African American. And in the 21st century, the terms Black and African American became widely used.

The history of Africans and their involvement in the exploration of the Americas began in the 16th century. Africans helped Spanish and Portuguese explorers during early journeys to the Americas. Some black explorers settled in the Mississippi valley and in the areas that would later become South Carolina and New Mexico. The most well-known black explorer of the Americas, Estéban, traveled through the Southwest in the 1530s, though he was an African-Spanish explorer.

The History of Blacks

The history of Blacks, or African Americans, in the United States mostly began in 1619. At this time, 20 Africans landed in the English colony of Virginia. They were not slaves but indentured servants, who agreed to work for a limited amount of time for an employer in exchange for the expenses for the trip. Many more Africans, along with Whites from Europe, became indentured servants in the New World. By the 1660s, though, larger numbers of Africans were being brought to the newly settled English colonies.

The black indentured servants, though promised their freedom after a certain amount of time, were instead forced into slavery. There was also a belief by Whites that Blacks were an “inferior” race, which made it easier for them to turn the black people into slaves. The enslaved Blacks were forced to work, clearing and cultivating the farmlands of the New World. Some historians estimate that 6 to 7 million slaves were imported to the New World during the 18th century alone, but it is very difficult to get accurate figures.

Africans were brought to America as slaves until 1808 when Congress outlawed the import of new slaves. However, the slave population tripled over the next 50 years. By 1860, it had reached nearly 4 million, with more than half living in the cotton-producing states of the South.

Though the slaves were not counted as Americans, many of them fought in the American Revolutionary War, helping white Americans break loose from the oppression by the British. In fact, many Whites in the North began to link the oppression of the black slaves to their own oppression by the British.

Events Time Line

Though the beginning of Black history in America was harmful to Africans, it did not stop African American influence on people and places throughout society. There have been many African American people and events that have had an important and significant influence on the history of America. Such people and events also had a major impact on American society. They led to civil rights for all Americans and the equal treatment of people everywhere, regardless of skin color or national origin. The lesson provides a list of summaries of several important events in African American history.

In 1831, Nat Turner led a slave rebellion in Virginia. A total of 57 white people were killed. The resistance to slavery increased as a result, especially in the North. The 15th Amendment was ratified in 1870, which gave African Americans the right to vote. As a result, many Blacks won elections for southern state governments and Congress.

At the start of World War II in 1941, three million Blacks registered to fight for the United States. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., was the first black person to become a general. He led a group called the Tuskegee Airmen. And, of course, in 2008, our country elected the first black president when Barack Obama took office as the 44th president.

There have been many other significant events and famous African Americans that have had a positive impact on United States history. They include inventors, politicians, civil rights leaders, educators, writers, and others. Many African Americans lost their lives simply due to the color of their skin and their desire to fight for equal rights for all people regardless of race.


The African American History lesson plan includes three worksheets: an activity worksheet, a practice worksheet, and a homework assignment. Each one will reinforce students’ comprehension of lesson material in different ways and help them demonstrate when they learned. Use the guidelines on the classroom procedure page to determine when to distribute each worksheet to the class.


For the activity, students will research three key historical figures or events that relate to African American history. They will create posters that depict the facts they gathered during their research. They should get creative and include drawings or images that support the people or events they chose to highlight. In addition to the titles of the events or names of people, they should include any important dates and other interesting facts. They can use the Internet to find additional support or images if necessary. You may have students work with a partner or in groups if you prefer.


The practice worksheet contains two sections. The first section requires students to match information to the correct person or term from the word bank on the right of the worksheet. There are 15 total statements or definitions to match. For the second section, students will describe how seven people, events, or things impacted U.S. history.


For the homework assignment, students must first read through 15 events. They will have to place these events in chronological order from earliest to most recent. Then they will answer five questions.

Worksheet Answer Keys

The lesson plan provides answer keys at the end of the document for the practice and homework worksheets. All the correct answers are in red to make it easy to compare them with your students’ work. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits these pages. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep these as reference for yourself when grading assignments.

Additional information


5th Grade, 6th Grade


Social Studies

State Educational Standards


Lessons are aligned to meet the education objectives and goals of most states. For more information on your state objectives, contact your local Board of Education or Department of Education in your state.

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African American History

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