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BLACK HISTORY: Crispus Attucks (1723-1770)

On March 5, 1770, five men were shot dead by British soldiers on King Street in Boston. This event became known as the Boston Massacre, and helped kindle the fire of the American revolution. The first man to fall in this event was Crispus Attucks, a sailor and escaped slave of mixed African and American Indian ancestry. Patriot activists held up Attucks as a martyr for the cause of liberty, and generations of Americans followed suit; almost a century later, abolitionists made Attucks into a symbol of Black civic identity. But who was he, really? This lesson, the first of two on Crispus Attucks, tries to establish the facts about his life from the scant remaining evidence. Free with registration.

BLACK HISTORY: 54th Massachusetts (1863-1865)

In January 1863, President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation went into effect, and the Union Army began recruiting Black Americans to fight the Civil War. Thousands answered the call. Soldiers of the 54th Massachusetts infantry regiment came from all over the country, dedicated to both the destruction of slavery and the advancement of racial equality nationwide. Their heroism transformed the conflict from a battle to preserve the Union to a grand struggle for freedom. Discover the true story of the men whose fame was restored to public memory by the celebrated 1989 film Glory. Free with registration.

BLACK HISTORY: Alice Coachman (1923-2014)

Born into poverty in rural Georgia and raised under the shadows of Jim Crow segregation and the Great Depression, Alice Coachman fought through gender taboos and racial barriers to become a record-breaking track star. Then, in the 1948 London Olympics (the first to be held after WWII), she leapt to victory in the high jump and became the first black woman in history to win Olympic gold. One of postwar America’s most high-profile athletes and the first African-American woman to be spokesperson for an international product, Coachman’s life and achievements were honored during the 1996 Atlanta Olympic games. Free with registration.

BUILDING CHARACTER: Resilience and Learned Optimism

In this character-building lesson about the Woodson Principle of resilience, students learn to find strength in the face of adversity and draw wisdom from setbacks and failures. Asking students to rethink the way they “frame” negative experiences and “talk to themselves” about challenges they face, this lesson makes the case for a rational, learned optimism that is genuinely empowering. Free with registration.

BLACK HISTORY: Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806)

In this early American history lesson, students are introduced to Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806), a free Black landowner from Maryland who found notoriety as a largely self-taught surveyor, astronomer, and natural historian. A friend and neighbor of the Ellicotts, an influential family of abolitionist Quakers, Banneker became a national figure in the young republic through his popular series of almanacs, and is remembered for his scientific achievements, public opposition to slavery (including a famous exchange with Thomas Jefferson), and role in surveying the boundaries of the District of Columbia. Free with registration.

BLACK HISTORY: Booker T. Washington and the Rosenwald Schools (1912-1932)

Having experienced the profound racial disparities in the rural South firsthand, writer and education reformer Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) dreamed of a school-building project for Black communities that could help begin to lift them out of poverty. In this history lesson, students examine Washington’s collaboration with philanthropist Julius Rosenwald (1862-1932), and learn how Washington’s hopeful dream slowly became the reality of nearly 5,000 new schools. Built in large part by the communities they served, Rosenwald schools were a ray of hope in the face of poverty and racial discrimination. Free with registration.

BLACK HISTORY: Biddy Mason (1818-1891)

In this history lesson, students learn about the epic life and exemplary character of Biddy Mason, a woman who was born into slavery in the Deep South, walked to California as part of a pioneer caravan, fought for her freedom in court, and died a millionaire real-estate investor in Los Angeles. In addition to the highs and lows of Biddy’s dramatic life, this lesson asks students to study how she demonstrated the virtues of courage and charity, both in securing freedom for herself and her family and, later, using her fortune to invest in her community and provide relief to poor Californians of all races and religions. Free with registration.

BLACK HISTORY: Elijah McCoy (1844-1929)

In this history lesson, students learn about the ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit of Elijah McCoy, a prolific inventor who held 57 patents, mostly on designs related to locomotives. Born in Canada and educated in Scotland, he spent most of his professional life in and around Detroit, Michigan, working in the railroad industry while also continuing to produce new inventions. The son of escaped slaves, McCoy overcame early discrimination to become an internationally respected authority in his field. By the time of his death, McCoy was widely celebrated by his contemporaries as a leader and model for Black America in the first generation after Emancipation. This lesson asks students to consider how McCoy’s life experiences led him create such important innovations and ask why his inventions were so highly valued by manufacturers and consumers. Free with registration.

BUILDING CHARACTER: The Woodson Principles

Neighborhood empowerment advocate and civil rights movement veteran Robert L. Woodson has developed ten principles for personal growth and community development. He has used these principles throughout his decades of working with organizations that seek to transform low-income communities from within. In this lesson, students will learn about these principles, discuss their importance, and imagine ways to apply them in their own lives and the life of their communities. Free with registration.


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