February is Black History Month so it’s the perfect time to read up, get busy and get inspired with the kids. While this list is just a fraction of the African Americans who have changed history, we’ve found some kid-approved action-items to help connect with these heroes you really should know. Scroll down to learn more.


1. Mae C. Jemison

Born in 1956
On June 4, 1987 Mae C. Jemison became the first African-American woman to enter the space program. On Sep. 12, 1992. she joined the crew of seven astronauts on the Endeavour, becoming the first African-American woman in space. Born in Decatur, Alabama and raised mostly in Chicago, Il, Jemison holds multiple awards and degrees including a a B.S. in biomedical engineering and an M.D. She has worked as a medical doctor (including in the Peace Corps). As a child, Jemison spent a lot of time in her school library, reading especially books about space.

Let your dreamers build a rocket ship of their own and blast off into outer space


2. Daniel Hale Williams


Born in 1856, in 1893 Daniel Hale Williams opened the Provident Hospital: the first medical facility to have an interracial staff. A major pioneer in the field of medicine, he was one of the first surgeons in the world to successfully perform open heart surgery. As a child he was encouraged to apprentice with a shoemaker and later a barber, but he pushed on to higher education and eventually completed medical training at Chicago Medical College. Because of discrimination, African Americans were not allowed in hospitals, not to mention given staff positions. So Williams opened his own hospital He later also became in chief surgeon at Freedmen’s Hospital, a facility that cared for former enslaved persons. In 1895 he co-founded the National Medical Association, because the American Medical Association did not allow African-American members.

Honor this heart surgeon with some activity to keep your heart healthy (and get the wiggles out) with 15 games and activities to get the kiddos moving.


3. Gwendolyn Brooks


A poet, an author and a teacher, Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks made history in 1950 when she became the first African-American woman to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Brooks began writing at a very young age and published her first poem at 13.By the time she was 16 she had already published nearly 75 poems. Throughout her lifetime, she was awarded more than 75 honorary degrees and a number of prestigious awards and positions. She was the Poet Laureate of Illinois from 1968 until her death in 2000 and was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1988.

Inspire your budding laureates to create a poem of their own using one of our kid-tested (and mother approved) methods.


4. Jackie Robinson


The first African-American Major League Baseball player in the 20th century, Jackie Robinson made history when he signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, ending a 60 years of segregation in the league. that same year he became Rookie of the Year. In 1949 he was named National League MVP in 1949 and in 1955, helped win the World Series. Born Jack Roosevelt Robinson, he had an older brother who won a silver medal. Jack Roosevelt Robinson had an older brother—Matthew Robinson—who won a silver medal in the 200-meter dash in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin (Jesse Owens won the gold). Remember, this was Nazi-occupied Germany and his brother’s courage and conviction inspired Jackie to achieve his athletic goals. And achieve them he did.

Learn more about Jackie Robinson by watching this family flick.

DIY Comic step 6
photo: Melissa Hecksher 

5. Morrie Turner


When Morrie Turner wondered why there were no minorities in cartoons, his mentor—Charles M. Schulz—suggested that Turner create one. And create he did. Wee Pals, which first appeared in the early 1960s as Dinky Fellas, became the first American syndicated comic strip with a diverse and integrated cast of characters. In addition to the long-running cartoon, he also created the Kid Power animated series, wrote numerous books and was honored with such awards as the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Cartoonists Society and the Sparky Award from the Cartoon Art Museum. Family Circus honors Morrie with a character (Morrie).

Channel your inner Turner today and create a comic strip of your own. Here’s a step by step guide to making an easy one yourself!

Want more? Check out this link for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech and learn more about the great man himself.

How do you celebrate Black History with your family? Share your ideas in the comments below. 

—Amber Guetebier

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