Lessons and Activities to Teach for Black Lives

Teaching for Black Lives (Book) Zinn Education Project

Here are lessons on the theme of African American history and related to the Rethinking Schools book, Teaching for Black Lives.

Find related resources in our campaigns: Teach the Black Freedom Struggle and Teach Reconstruction.


The Color Line (Teaching Activity) | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History

The Color Line

A lesson on the countless colonial laws enacted to create division and inequality based on race. This helps students understand the origins of racism in the United States and who benefits.

The Constitution Role Play

The U.S. Constitution endorsed slavery and favored the interests of the owning classes. What kind of Constitution would have resulted from founders who were representative of the entire country? That is the question addressed in this role play activity.

Who Fought To End Slavery? Meet the Abolitionists

This mixer role play introduces students to the stories of famous and lesser-known abolitionists, through biography and investigation.

Poetry of Defiance: How the Enslaved Resisted

Through a mixer activity, students encounter how enslaved people resisted the brutal exploitation of slavery. The lesson culminates in a collective class poem highlighting the defiance of the enslaved.

‘If There Is No Struggle…’: Teaching a People’s History of the Abolition Movement

In this role play, students become American Anti-Slavery Society members, facing many of the real challenges to ending slavery faced by actual abolitionists.

Lincoln's innauguration speech | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History

A War to Free the Slaves?

Students explore some of the myths of the Civil War by examining excerpts from Lincoln’s first inaugural address, the rarely mentioned original Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution that Lincoln promised to support, and the Emancipation Proclamation.

Reconstructing the South: A Role Play

Reconstructing the South

This role play engages students in thinking about what freedpeople needed in order to achieve — and sustain — real freedom following the Civil War. It’s followed by a chapter from the book Freedom’s Unfinished Revolution.

Five Myths About Reconstruction (Article) | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History

When the Impossible Suddenly Became Possible: A Reconstruction Mixer

A mixer role play explores the connections between different social movements during Reconstruction.

Burned Out of Homes and History: Unearthing the Silenced Voices of the Tulsa Massacre

Teaching about racist patterns of murder, theft, displacement, and wealth inequality through the 1921 Tulsa Massacre.

Textbooks Promote Myth of "De Facto" Segregation (Article) - Contract Buyers League protester | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History

How Red Lines Built White Wealth

The mixer role play is based on Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law, which shows in exacting detail how government policies segregated every major city in the United States with dire consequences for African Americans.

Warriors Don’t Cry: Connecting History, Literature, and Our Lives

These roleplay and writing activities for language arts and social studies on Brown v. Board and the Little Rock Nine were designed for use with the memoir Warriors Don’t Cry.

Teaching with the Black Panthers’ Ten Point Program (Lesson) | Zinn Education Project

What We Don’t Learn About the Black Panther Party — but Should

A mixer role play introduces students to the pivotal and largely untold history of the Black Panthers.

‘What We Want, What We Believe’: Teaching with the Black Panthers’ Ten Point Program

How students can use the Black Panther Party’s Ten Point Program to assess issues in their own communities and to develop Ten Point Programs of their own. Available in Spanish.

Fred Hampton, 1969 | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History

COINTELPRO: Teaching the FBI’s War on the Black Freedom Movement

Through examining FBI documents, students learn the scope of the FBI’s COINTELPRO campaign to spy on, infiltrate, discredit, and disrupt all corners of the Black Freedom Movement.

Testing, Tracking, and Toeing the Line: A Role Play on the Origins of the Modern High School (Teaching Activity) | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History

Testing, Tracking, and Toeing the Line

A role play on the origins of the modern high school allows students to question aspects of schooling they often take for granted, such as tracking (“ability grouping”) and standardized testing — and to reflect on the racial biases of these so-called reforms.

How to Make Amends: A Lesson on Reparations

Students meet dozens of advocates and recipients of reparations from a variety of historical eras to grapple with the possibility of reparations now and in the future.

Plotting Inequalities, Building Resistance: High School Students Use Math to Reflect on Social Inequality (Teaching Activity) | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History

Plotting Inequalities, Building Resistance

An article describing how math teachers in a San Francisco high school shed light on the ways economics and racism affect education, housing, and job opportunities.

Presidents and Slavery

Presidents and the Enslaved: Helping Students Find the Truth

How a 5th grade teacher and his students conducted research to answer the question: “Which presidents owned people?” Available in Spanish.

Teaching SNCC: The Organization at the Heart of the Civil Rights Revolution

A series of role plays that explore the history and evolution of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, including freedom rides and voter registration.

Reuters/Lucas Jackson

“Riots,” Racism, and the Police: Students Explore a Century of Police Conduct and Racial Violence

Students explore documents produced in the wake of three major episodes of racial violence (1919, 1967, 2014) to understand the long trajectory of police violence in Black communities.

Repair: Students Design a Reparations Bill

In this activity, students take on the role of activist-experts to improve upon a Congressional bill for reparations for Black people. They talk back to Congress’ flimsy legislation and design a more robust alternative.

The Rebellious Lives of Mrs. Rosa Parks

In this mixer lesson, students learn about Rosa Parks’ many decades of activism by taking on roles from various times in her life, which reveals her radicalism before, during, and long after the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Who Gets to Vote? Teaching About the Struggle for Voting Rights in the United States

A unit with three lessons on voting rights, including the history of the struggle against voter suppression in the United States.



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