Introduction

“Black Lives Matter Foundation, Inc is a global organization in the US, UK, and Canada, whose mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes” (Black Lives Matter). The BLM movement began in 2013 after George Zimmerman was acquitted for the murder of African American teen Trayvon Martin, and members of BLM continue to combat police brutality and racial injustice today. By teaching about Black Lives Matter, educators are giving students an opportunity to connect past racial justice movements to the present and gain a deeper understanding of systemic racism and police brutality in the United States.

Resources

There is an abundance of resources available online for teaching students about Black Lives Matter. In light of the protests occurring across the nation against police brutality and systemic racism, it is important for both students and adults to educate themselves on the mission of the BLM movement and race relations in our country.

Lesson Plans

  1. Leaders 4SC Forces: Leaders 4SC provides a variety of Task Forces that provoke students to think critically about key issues as they roleplay as decision-makers and brainstorm well-detailed solutions. Each Task Force comes with step-by-step instructions, Google slide templates to be used with virtual breakout rooms, and topic-specific questions to get student started. The activities can be completed either individually or as part of a group. A fun Task Force is Reform The Justice System
  2. Black Lives Matter at School – Resources: The National Education Association (NEA) has put together a collection of resources for teaching students about the Black Lives Matter movement at school. These lesson plans and guides will help educators facilitate conversations about race and teach students about the cities, including Milwaukee, Rochester, and Seattle, which have passed community/union resolutions and gone on to support Black Lives Matter in schools. In addition, art, videos, and ideas are provided to encourage classrooms to support racial and social justice. This list is a great place for educators to start looking for the resources they need to teach this topic.
  3. Black Lives Matter – From Hashtag to Movement: The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) provides a lesson plan for high school classrooms, which focuses on how and why Black Lives Matter transformed itself from a hashtag into a political activist movement. The lesson includes an overview, learning objectives, materials and preparation, a procedure, video/reading/writing activities, a guided conversation on All Lives Matter vs. Black Lives Matter, and additional reading and resources. ADL also offers other lessons on George Floyd, racism, law enforcement, and other topics related to the Black Lives Matter movement and how to teach it in the classroom.
  4. Black Lives Matter Lesson Series – Part 1: Morningside Center offers a series of three lessons on Black Lives Matter. These lessons focus on providing students with an introduction to the Black Lives Matter movement, teaching them about the difference between the terms “All Lives Matter” and “Black Lives Matter,” and explaining what this movement is working towards. The author of this lesson, Marieke van Woerkom, has also created a few others on Black Lives Matter in sports, the protests after George Floyd’s murder, and additional topics.
  5. Black Lives Matter, the Killing of George Floyd, and the Long Fight for Racial Justice: Brown University’s Department of History has created a lesson on Black Lives Matter, the murder of George Floyd, and the fight for racial justice. Included in the lesson are objectives, resources (interactive timeline, graphic organizer, homework), directions for the classroom, and extra challenges. This activity will help students better understand Black activism, civil rights, racial justice, the obstacles to racial equality, and Black Lives Matter

Articles

  1. Why Teaching Black Lives Matter Matters | Part I: The first part of this magazine feature explains why teaching Black Lives Matter is important. The topics discussed include the beginning of the movement and the hashtag, the myths and criticisms surrounding Black Lives Matter, the similarities between this movement and the Civil Rights Movement, and the difference between “All Lives Matter” and “Black Lives Matter.”
  2. Bringing Black Lives Matter Into the Classroom | Part II: The second part of this magazine feature focuses on how educators can bring Black Lives Matter into their classrooms. The author provides elementary, middle, and high school approaches to teaching students about BLM because it’s  important to continue having this conversation throughout schooling, as there’s always more to learn about racial injustice, systemic racism, and how we can become better allies. This piece gives educators insight into how they can best teach about this significant issue across all grade levels!
  3. Here’s How to Teach Black Lives Matter: The Washington Post has published an article on how to teach students about Black Lives Matter. There is a link to a “Politics, Groups, and Identities” (PGI) micro-syllabus that contains several readings about the Black Lives Matter Movement, police violence, and other related topics. This article provides an explanation of the course from beginning to end and recommends that educators add foundational readings in black politics by activists when teaching about Black Lives Matter in the classroom. (Educators can access this micro-syllabus for free until August 31, 2020!)

  1. Q&A – How To Talk To Kids About Black Lives And Police Violence: National Public Radio (NPR) provides a Q&A with public school educator Jesse Hagopian on how to talk to kids about Black lives and police violence. Hagopian discusses how he talks to his own children about police brutality, why he published the book Teaching for Black Lives, what is missing about Black lives from most school curricula, how he is teaching for Black lives in his classroom, and more. Educators can learn a lot about how to teach about Black lives in the classroom from this resource!

Informational Sites

  1. Black Lives Matter: The official Black Lives Matter campaign website offers an abundance of resources, including more information about their focus and campaign goals in 2020 and What Matters, which “combines documentary narrative with interviews to illuminate specific, timely issues, aiming to create safe dialogue to promote freedom, justice, and collective liberation.” 
  2. Meaning Behind the Movement – Black Lives Matter: The University of New Mexico Newsroom provides an article explaining the meaning behind the Black Lives Matter movement. From this piece, students will learn more about the mission of the BLM organization, the most common misconceptions regarding the BLM movement, and the relationship between police and the Black community which has sparked Black Lives Matter protests across the country.

Conclusion

Teaching students about Black Lives Matter and racial injustice may not be an easy task due to its sensitive nature, but this will be one of the most important lessons that students will ever learn. When bringing this subject into the classroom, it is necessary to bring up the problem with the phrase, “All Lives Matter,” a common criticism made against the BLM movement. An effective way to argue against this criticism is to reiterate that all lives cannot matter if Black lives do not. In addition, “Black Lives Matter” doesn’t mean “Only Black Lives Matter.” All lives do matter, but Black lives are in danger, which is why #BlackLivesMatter was founded.  Ultimately, with the resources above, educators will be able to teach their students about the importance of Black Lives Matter.

Additional Resources

  1. ‘Teaching for Black Lives’ – A Handbook to Fight America’s Ferocious Racism in (Virtual or Face-to-Face) Classrooms: The Washington Post provides the introduction and two chapters from “Teaching for Black Lives,” which was written to show how educators “can and should make their classrooms and schools sites of resistance to white supremacy and anti-blackness, as well as sites for knowing the hope and beauty in blackness.”
  2. Black Lives Matter May Be the Largest Movement in U.S. History: The New York Times  published an article on the Black Lives Matter movement, which may be considered the largest movement in American history. This article will give students information on the recent protests; specifically, it will help them understand why this movement is different than others and who is joining Black Lives Matter protests across the country.