This weekend, Marvel released the latest in their line of superhero movies, Black Panther. It not only smashed the record for the highest grossing film by a black director, but it also was the second biggest opening for a Marvel film and broke the record for a February opening. The timing of the film’s release during Black History Month is especially fitting, as the film features a mostly black cast and touches on issues of diversity, racism, and a history of oppression. Throughout the movie, King T’Challah grapples with what it means to be a hero as well as a leader for his people.
The excitement and energy that Black Panther has generated can be powerful when coupled with a Black History Month focus on African-American heroes. Students can discuss the qualities that make someone a hero or a good leader and learn about black Civil Rights leaders, scientists, government leaders, and artists that have made an impact. While many schools have resources regarding important figures such as Martin Luther King Junior, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, and Jackie Robinson, students should see that many others have contributed to our advancement as a society.
Here area few hero themed activities that could be done in the classroom:
Check out some of these great biographies of black heroes (minus the claws):
Katherine Johnson by Dr. Virginia Loh-Hagan
A short, primary level biography about Katherine Johnson, a NASA physicist that provided the calculations for Apollo 11’s moon landing.
Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges
In this compilation of interviews, photos, drawings, and Ruby’s own words, a clear picture of the Civil Right’s Movement as told through the eyes of a six-year-old girl as she was at the forefront of the fight to end segregation in Louisiana.
When the Beat was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop by Laban Carrick Hill
Winner of the Coretta Scott King Award, this picture book chronicles the life of DJ Kool Herc and how his music became a driving force for change in the Bronx, turning gang members into break-dancing crews.
Simone Biles: Gymnastics Star by Lori Mortensen
This nonfiction book chronicles Simone’s childhood through her struggles to get to the Olympics, where she won 5 medals in the Rio Olympics, 4 of them gold.
Heroes come in all genders, ages, shapes, and colors.
This can be a powerful reminder for all of our students.