Worthwhile ideas for Black History month

Black History Month in French class

Black History Month, also known as Mois de l’histoire des Noirs in French, is a time to celebrate and honor the achievements and contributions of African Americans in the United States. As French teachers, we have the opportunity to incorporate this important month into our classrooms and pay tribute to the rich history and cultural diversity of our students.

One way to celebrate Black History Month in French class is by introducing and discussing famous African Americans who have made significant contributions to French culture. This could include figures such as Eugene Bullard, a pilot who contributed to the French effort in World War 1, or Josephine Baker, a dancer and singer who was a major star in France in the 1920s and 1930s. In the days before the civil rights movement, France was seen as a place where opportunities were available for African-Americans, and Paris became a popular destination for those who were searching for a home with less racism.

Black History and the arts

You might also incorporate Black History Month into a more advanced French class through literature. There are numerous works by Francophone African authors that explore themes of race, identity, and cultural heritage, and reading and discussing these texts can be a powerful way for students to engage with these themes in a meaningful way. Leopold Senghor is one of the most important names in Francophone African literature and he was the first African to be admitted to the Academie Francaise as well as serving as president of Senegal. He saw French as a way of uniting people across Africa. His poetry can be quite accessible to French learners.

In addition to literature, French teachers can also bring music, art, and film into their Black History Month celebrations. For example, students could listen to and discuss the music of artists such as Amadou et Mariam, a Malian couple who have gained international fame for their fusion of traditional West African music and modern rock and pop. If your students have learned about les Tirailleurs Senegalais, they may be interested in the film Le Camp de Thiaroye. It is about a massacre, so it may not be appropriate for all students.

Black History and culture

Too many of our students view France as a white country, not realizing that there is much diversity within France, as well as in the Francophone world. According to some demographic researchers, the history of the French language may be headed towards Africa – by 2050, as many as 85% of French speakers could be African, not French! If we share this diversity and reality of the French language with our students, they may see new opportunities for themselves and a new appreciation of the language.

You can celebrate Black History Month by inviting guest speakers to share their experiences and insights with students. Inviting guest speakers can provide students with a firsthand look at the diversity of the French-speaking world and help to broaden their understanding of what it means to be a member of the global community. This might be a French teacher or professor who has studied or lived in Africa or the Caribbean, or a French-speaking immigrant who has experienced firsthand the challenges and triumphs of living in a new country and culture.

French teachers can celebrate Black History Month by incorporating cultural activities and traditions into their classrooms. Including traditional African or Caribbean dishes, participating in African or Caribbean dance workshops, or creating art projects inspired by African or Caribbean cultures can bring a bit of excitement to your classes. Many students realize that French is important across the continent of Africa, but the Caribbean cultures are often overlooked. While Africa and Europe may be a bit out of reach for some of our students, the Caribbean is much closer – and more accessible!

Black History Month is an important opportunity for French teachers to celebrate and honor the achievements and contributions of Africans around the world and to promote cultural understanding and appreciation in their classrooms. Whether through literature, music, art, film, guest speakers, or cultural activities, there are numerous ways to incorporate Black History Month into French class and to inspire students to learn more about the diverse cultures and histories of the French-speaking world.

People in Black History

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