Following on from last week’s post, celebrating Black Americans that you may not have heard of, here are some more ground-breaking and amazing pioneers in history that you might be familiar with. I have researched a book for each historical figure, a suitable website and and engaging activity to hook your students.
(Disclosure: Some of links below are affiliate links, which means that at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.)
Elizabeth “Bessie” Coleman was an American civil aviator. She was the first female pilot of African American descent to earn a pilot’s license. She gained her license two years before Amelia Earhart. Unable to train to be a pilot in the USA as a black woman, she learned French and went there to study and to fly. It was there that she received her license from the Federation Aeronautique Internationale.
In ‘Fly High!: The Story of Bessie Coleman’ by Louise Borden, we learn that when Bessie Coleman was a child, she wanted to be in school — not in the cotton fields of Texas, helping her family earn money. She wanted to be somebody significant in the world. So Bessie did everything she could to learn under the most challenging of circumstances. At the end of every day in the fields she checked the foreman’s numbers — made sure his math was correct. And this was just the beginning of a life of hard work and dedication that really paid off: Bessie became the first African-American to earn a pilot’s license. She was somebody.
Students use this easy pilot license craft to recount facts about Bessie Coleman, and decorate her license with aviator wings. For elementary students, comes with differentiated writing templates. From Teachers Pay Teachers.
Learn more about Bessie Coleman here.
Dr. Mae Jemison
In addition to being a brilliant scientist, engineer, computer software analyst and doctor, Mae Jemison was also the first African American female astronaut. As a little girl, she was inspired by the character Uhura in the television show, Star Trek. In 1993 she appeared as Lieutenant junior grade Palmer in the Star Trek: The Next Generation sixth season episode “Second Chances”.
‘Mae Among the Stars’ by Rhoda Ahmed is the perfect early introduction to Dr. Jemison’s life. When Little Mae was a child, she dreamed of dancing in space. She imagined herself surrounded by billions of stars, floating, gliding, and discovering. She wanted to be an astronaut. Her mom told her, “If you believe it, and work hard for it, anything is possible.”
Students make their own astronauts and design a stamp in these activities from Teachers Pay Teachers.
Learn about Dr. Mae Jemison here.
Garrett Morgan was an inventor and businessman. He invented many products including a ‘safety hood smoke protection device’ or gas-mask, which he personally used to save the lives of men entombed after a tunnel collapsed under Lake Erie in 1916. The fumes were noxious, but using his gas-mask, Morgan was able to help those trapped to safety. This invention led to nation-wide fame. After witnessing a horrific road accident between a horse-drawn cart and a motor car, Morgan went on to invent a traffic control device in 1922. Although there were versions of stop signals, Morgan’s invention recognized the need to warn drivers when they needed to slow down to stop, and essentially invented the pre-cursor to the yellow light.
Learn more about Garrett Morgan and how he changed the world in this fascinating illustrated short story. With simple text and engaging illustrations, the Historically series brings stories of inspirational people and events to young readers.
Students make their own stop lights and sequence the story or write about Garrett Morgan in this differentiated craft available from Teachers Pay Teachers.
Learn more about Garrett Morgan here.
Ruby Bridges was the first African American child to desegregate William Frantz Elementary School. At six years old, Ruby’s bravery helped pave the way for Civil Rights action in the American South. On November 14, Ruby and her mother were escorted into the William Frantz Elementary School by four federal marshalls. This escort continued all year. Despite the racial slurs, screaming crowds, and only having one teacher willing to accept her, Ruby did not miss a day of school.
Told with Robert Coles’ powerful narrative and dramatically illustrated by George Ford, ‘The Story of Ruby Bridges’ is a story of courage, faith, and hope.
This ‘satchel’ craft encourages students to think about the character traits that Ruby displayed in her first year at William Frantz Elementary School. From Teachers Pay Teachers.
Find out more about Ruby Bridges here.
George Washington Carver
George Washington Carver is famous for his work as a scientist and botanist, and discovering many uses for peanuts, including peanut butter, helping farmers who were reliant on cotton plants.
Take a bite into the fascinating history of peanut butter and the man who invented it with this book. Through leveled text and engaging photos, kids meet George Washington Carver and learn about his important work with peanuts and other plants. This level 1 reader is carefully leveled for an early independent reading or read aloud experience, perfect to encourage the scientists and explorers of tomorrow!
Students create their own peanut butter jars with this book craft and choose from a selection of pages to make an information booklet about George Washington Carver in this activity from Teachers Pay Teachers.
Learn more about George Washington Carver here.
I hope you find one or more of this activities helpful in teaching Black History this month and every month! Still looking for Black History resources? Check out these pioneers.