Celebrating Black History Month at The Holiday Zone

""Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which were overcome while trying to succeed. . . ."
--Booker T. Washington

Art and Craft Projects for Black History Month

Black and White Collage
Each person will need one sheet of black construction paper, one sheet of white, one brightly colored sheet, and glue.

Tear black and white sheets into small pieces (> 1/2" square). Paste the black and white pieces on the brightly colored sheet to create a unique collage. Some people may choose to create identifiable objects. Others may create geometric designs or a patterned "quilt."

After all pieces are completed, allow children to show their pictures and briefly describe. Note that neither the black nor the white alone would have created an interesting picture, yet the two could be combined into many interesting patterns.  In short, they were more productive working as a team. Discuss the need for teamwork, whether it be in the home, the classroom, the workplace or the community at large. What are some tasks that require group effort?

You might also pay special attention to the differences between the pieces. Point out that just as no two pieces are art are alike, no two people are alike. Each person has a unique purpose in life, and the home, church, community, and society as a whole are benifitted when each person finds and fulfills his purpose in life instead of seeking to be "just like" another individual. Consider the lives of Harriet Tubman, George Washington Carver, Booker T. Washington, Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and Colin Powell. Each has significantly influenced not only the African-American community, but all of American society. What would have happened, however, if any of these individuals had tried to be "just like" one of their predecessors?

Role Models and Heroes 
Based on the previous activity, some might question whether we should have role models and heroes. Discuss this issue as a family or class. Why can role models or heroes be a positive influence? Why can role models and heroes be a negative influence?

Supply each child or student with a sheet of posterboard, scissors, glue, markers or colored pencils, and materials for research. Ask each one to choose one role model, then create a poster which bears the person's name and function, dates of birth and death (if applicabe), drawings or pictures (Remind children to ask permission before cutting pictures out of books or magazines!) of the person, a character quality embodied by that person, and three or more examples of the person demonstrating the chosen character quality.

To add greater critical thinking opportunities to this activity, you might also ask participants to list three aspects of this person's life which others should not emulate.

Milk-Carton Buses
One of the battles in the war to end segregation was the Montgomery Bus Strike. A young black woman on her way home from work, Rosa Parks, refused to give up her seat on a city bus to a white man and was promptly arrested. After Ms. Park's arrest, many African-Americans in Montgomery, Alabama,  led by Dr. King refused to ride the city buses, choosing instead to walk to work.  After the 381-day strike which almost bankrupted the bus companies, the United States Supreme Court outlawed all segregated public transportation in the city.

Tell children the story of the bus strike, then give each child a cardboard milk carton. Open the triangular top of each carton fully to form a rectangle. Cut down the four corners of the top, stopping at the main portion of the carton. Cut three of the top's four sides off completely, then fold the fourth side across the opening and tape to produce a rectangle. Paint boxes yellow. After paint has dried completely, use markers to draw windows on the bus. You may wish to illustrate the four stages of the bus strike by drawing in the windows white people sitting in the front of the first bus while black people stand in the back, Ms. Parks sitting with the white people in the second bus while other African-Americans stand in the back, a mostly-empty third bus with only few white people scattered throughout and a sad driver, and black and white people sitting together in the fourth bus. Children may then use their milk carton buses to recount the chronology of the Montgomery Bus Strike.

African-American Timeline
Assign each child or student a time period in American history from the Revolutionary War to the present day. Using school and/or local libraries (college/university libraries, if possible) as well as general reference works, children should research the role of African-Americans in U.S. history during their assigned time period. After sufficient data has been gathered, students should chart on a common timeline events of great significance to African Americans as well as the lifespans of influential African Americans. Each child should choose at least two people or events from his or her time-period to illustrate on the timeline. (Illustrations may including original drawings, paintings, computer-rendered graphics, and/or collages made from printed photographs.)

Black History Month Quilt
Similar to the above project, this activity is simpler for younger children. Purchase or obtain from your local library age-appropriate biographies of influential African-America including (but not limited to) the following: Benjamin Banneker, Phyllis Wheatley, Elijah McCoy, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, George Washington Carver, Booker T. Washington, Samuel Morris, Dred Scott, Matthew Henson, Garrett A. Morgan, James Weldon Johnson, Mary Mcleod Bethune,  Marian Anderson, Mahalia Jackson, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Colin Powell. Let children choose one or more biographies to read, then encourage them to draw a picture based on one scene from the life of each person about whom they have read. Mount each picture on a larger sheet of colored paper, and attach pages to wall to form a quilt of famous African-Americans.

Hand in Hand
Carefully trace around the right hands of several children or students, then photocopy handprints onto tag board or heavy paper. Each child should receive six handprints.

Provide children with multi-cultural crayons and ask them to color each handprint a different skintone. After handprints are colored, students may cut them out, cutting carefully between each finger and thumb.

Print the phrase "I will love others as myself." for children, then ask children to define love. Ask children to list ways in which we show love for ourselves. (We sleep when we are tired. We eat when we are hungry. We go to the doctor when we get sick. We study hard so that we can get a good job later. We avoid injury whenever posibble, etc.) Next, ask students to list ways in which we may love others "as we love ourselves." (We give food to people who are hungry. We give a warm blanket or a coat to a homeless person on a cold night. We offer to take people who are sick to the doctor when they cannot drive. We watch a younger brother or sister so Mom can rest when she is tired. We are carefull when we play so that we do not hurt others, etc.)

Direct students to copy the phrase onto the handprints, neatly printing one word on each hand. Students may then put the words in order by linking the thumb of one hand between the fingers of the next. You might call on each child to tell one way he or she can love someone else as himself/herself while children are assembling the handprint chains.

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