Black History Before Slavery in the Elementary Classroom

Representation matters. Black students and colleagues have taught me the importance of ,learning histories of Black people outside slavery. For American elementary students chattel slavery is often the first context in which they see Black people in history. I curated the linked teaching materials on this page as resources for my child’s elementary school.

Dr. Lagarette King’s presentation for NCHE on and advocacy for teaching the history of Black joy as accomplishment and excellence reinforced the importance of seeing the fullness of the Black past while in school.

This is a living page, please comment or connect with suggestions.


The African Resource Center at Boston University hosts many excellent educational materials: featured resources and lessons for elementary students.

Adinkra symbols originated in present-day Ghana and are from both the past and the present. Lessons using these symbols can incorporate visual arts and values clarification. The most famous Adinkra symbol is the Sankofa bird. There are many lessons for stamps and fabric art using these symbols, including this from Beyond the Chalkboard.

Sankofa symbol. Source Carter G. Woodson Center

West Africa Trading Societies

The “Gold Road” is another name for the Trans-Saharan trade routes that connected North Africa and the Mediterranean with West Africa. Howard University’s Center for Africa Studies has a site that includes an interactive map and links to visual resources which kids could analyze and categorize. There are lots of artifacts available online, especially at the National Museum of African Art, including these great images.. Teaching upper elementary students about West Africa allows students to practice visual analysis and mapping skills. Plus, the music is great.

The great trading city of Timbuktu in Mali, once a major trading hub

Southern Africa

Resources for Zimbabwe (old and new)

Google Earth introduction to African geography.