By Katie Carpenter
Celebrate Black History Month this February and all year long! Black History Month is a time to look back on the history of Black leaders, artists, scientists, activists and other historical figures as well as those who are still making an impact today.
Swell Song: Black History in Waves (above) is a visual essay to honor Black History Month and the journeys that African-Americans have had to make through history. This piece was created by TPT’s Racism Unveiled Project Lead, Robert Edwards V, and his aunt Tia Williams.
Black History Month is a great time to spark a conversation with your children about the unfair treatment many Black people face because of their skin color as well as the resiliency and achievements that many have made to advance equity and justice. Conversations will help children build empathy and understanding, while celebrating the many contributions of Black people.
Watch & Discuss: Minnesota’s Black History-makers
We encourage you to watch the short clips below to learn about some intriguing Black Minnesotans who made history for their unique contributions to our society. At the end of the article, we encourage you to discuss what you learned using some of the discussion questions that are provided.
Voyageur. Entrepreneur. Diplomat. Meet MN Black Pioneer George Bonga.
Believed to be the first person of African descent born in the territory that would become Minnesota, George Bonga was a larger-than-life history maker. Educated in Montreal, Canada, George returned to the Leach Lake area of Minnesota to follow in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps as a fur trader. But his life took many twists and turns along the way.
I Am Betty Crocker
Barbara Jo Davis was hired by General Mills in 1968. Davis had a hand in developing Hamburger Helper, welcomed tours to the test kitchens, and worked in publishing. She even traveled the nation to work with homemakers in their kitchens to refine recipes and products.
Learn more about Barbara Jo Davis and her trailblazing at General Mills and after.
MinneHistory: Nellie Francis
This MinneHistory short features African American suffragist and Civil Rights pioneer Nellie Griswold Francis.
Where is the Funk? How Prince Created the Minneapolis Sound (feat. Jellybean Johnson of The Time)
The electro-funk style known as the Minneapolis Sound took over pop music in the 1980s and 90s. Soundfield host, LA Buckner, is in Minneapolis to meet with Jellybean Johnson of the Minneapolis Sound pioneering band, The Time, to find out how Prince and artists like Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis developed the sound. Jellybean also helps LA create his own Minneapolis-style original composition.
Former slave Prince Honeycutt was a civic leader in Fergus Falls, MN, where he helped to settle African-American migrants looking for a better life. Two of those families – the Tates and the Andersons – are the ancestors of the architects of the Minneapolis Sound. Discover how Jimmy Jam Harris and Prince owe their musical pioneering to the Black pioneers of Western MN. Dive into more local history: This Prince Set the Stage for the Minneapolis Sound… In 1896
The U of M’s First Black Quarterback Brought Gophers to Victory
In 1960, the Gophers won the National Championship thanks to the University of Minnesota’s first appointed African-American quarterback, Sandy Stephens.
Watch Minnesota Experience’s Becoming Big League which explores how sport was changing in 1960 and how that changed Minnesota. From Olympic hockey to High School hoops, from pro-sports origins in Big Ten titles, Becoming Big League is a retro sports page come to life that illustrates how 1960 might be the most dynamic year in Minnesota Sports history.
Make Vegan Black-Eye Pea Banana Pudding with Relish Chef, Lachelle Cunningham
Chef Lachelle Cunningham’s interest in African-inspired ingredients and soul food helped her create this vegan dessert. Relish shares stories of cultural heritage in Twin Cities communities through the universal language of food. In each episode, host Yia Vang (Union Hmong Kitchen) takes viewers inside the home kitchens of local chefs as they serve up an ingredient or dish that has personal and cultural meaning to them.
Discuss what you watched
Modified from PBS Parents
Looking for more ways to keep the conversation going with your family? Try using these prompts:
1. Think about the special people in your family and community. Ask: “What makes someone a hero? Who are some Black heroes that you have learned about?”
2. Use the videos above to introduce your children to different Black leaders in Minnesota throughout history. Then, ask: “Who are the Black heroes who have broken barriers in history and today?”
3. Think about how good leaders act. Find out what your child thinks is important with questions like “What is a role model? What Black role models helped to make the world a better place? How can you be a role model at school or in your neighborhood?”
Want more Black History Month activities?
PBS has you covered!
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