Resistance and Black History | Facing History & Ourselves
Picture of Resist Protest Sign.

Resistance and Black History

Black resistance to systemic racism has formed a powerful narrative where hate and power are met with organization and defiance. 

The theme for Black History Month in 2023 is Resistance. The Association for the Study of African American Life and History African Americans says of this year’s theme:

“African Americans have resisted historic and ongoing oppression, in all forms, especially the racial terrorism of lynching, racial pogroms, and police killings since our arrival upon these shores. Black people have had to consistently push the United States to live up to its ideals of freedom, liberty, and justice for all.”

For Black Americans the connection to resistance begins in the 1690s when enslaved Africans were first brutally captured and delivered to colonial Virginia. This resistance persisted and stretched through the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights movement, and the Black Powers revolution. It continues today. 

Many examples of resistance include individuals arming themselves and acts of violence. But rising up against injustice can take multiple forms, and in this way Black America has literally institutionalized resistance by building strong, supportive communities. Black churches, Black periodicals, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, the Congressional Black Caucus, and many other groups and organizations have been founded to ensure that African American success was not determined by a society that was often not willing to protect their rights.

As you bring a deeper focus to Black history in February, there are countless ways to celebrate and discover the stories of African Americans in the United States and Black people around the world. The additional prompt of resistance can be a helpful way to hone in on some particulars of Black history, allowing you and your students to have a more immersive experience. 

Facing History has collected a list of resources that offer dynamic options for specific reflection on both resistance and Black history as a whole. 

Collection: Choices in Little Rock

This collection asks students to examine the 1957 desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock through the question, “​​How much power do ordinary people have to change the world?”

Lesson: Radical Reconstruction and the Birth of Civil Rights

Learn about Congress’s response to President Andrew Johnson’s policies concerning Reconstruction and the creation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Lesson: The Unfinished Revolution

Students explore the legacies of the Reconstruction era, reflect on the idea of democracy as a continuous process, and consider how they can best participate in democracy today.

Reading: Steve Biko Calls for Black Consciousness

Steve Biko’s, noted Black Consciousness activist, gave a speech in 1971 calling on Black South Africans to create their own power to fight oppression.

Documentary: Zora Neale Hurston: Claiming a Space

Zora Neale Hurston became a key figure of the Harlem Renaissance, best remembered for her novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God. During her lifetime she became known as the foremost authority on Black folklore.

Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture

Free online workshops are available throughout the year.

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