Black History Month Lessons in Television - MetroFamily Magazine
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Black History Month Lessons in Television

by Christina Mushi-Brunt

Reading Time: 3 minutes 

If you have school-aged children, they are most likely learning about and celebrating Black History Month in their classrooms or perhaps even in school-wide assemblies. In our family we have found that some of the most valuable and memorable Black history lessons have come from television show episodes that we have watched together on streaming services. Check out our favorite episodes below, plus a list of others your family can use as learning opportunities in February and beyond.

  1. Black-ish: Season 5 Episode 19, “Black History Month.” In this episode, Dre’ (dad) finds out that during Black History Month his youngest children are still only being taught about the same commonly referenced historical figures (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, etc.) as he was when he was in school himself. He volunteers to present a Black History Month lesson at their school. However, he has a hard time deciding which influential person to feature. Throughout the episode, each family member suggests an individual they feel best exemplifies Black history.What we like most about this episode is that the individuals who are suggested are not ones who are typically included in most school Black History Month lesson plans. The lesson learned through this episode is that the significance of the Black experience is not just historical and it has different meanings for everyone.Watch this episode as a family and talk about what individual each of you would suggest.
  2. Black-ish’: Season 4 Episode 1, “Black History Month.” This episode focuses on Juneteenth, a holiday celebrating the day slavery was officially abolished nationwide (June 19, 1865). Juneteenth has been celebrated for decades by segments of the Black community. It gained wider awareness when it was declared a federal holiday on June 17, 2021.This episode is one of our favorites because it combines two things our family has deep appreciation for: history and music.

    The episode is presented in a musical theater format that appeals to my husband and my generation with its “Schoolhouse Rocks” animated part of the episode. And our whole family enjoys the musical number in the show that is influenced by the popular musical “Hamilton.” Through music and dialogue, the Johnson family and other characters highlight the importance of learning about, understanding and celebrating all of our nation’s history; the good and the bad. This episode also makes the audience think about why some holidays (and historical figures) are celebrated, while others are not.Watch this episode and talk about how you can incorporate Juneteenth into your family’s celebrations.

  3. That’s So Raven: Season 3 Episode 10, “True Colors.” This episode features two storylines. In one, best friends Raven and Chelsea apply for jobs at a store. Chelsea, the lesser skilled of the two, is hired, while the more qualified Raven is not.

    The two friends work together to expose that the manager’s racism is why Raven was not hired. Since it’s a TV comedy, the way the friends handled the situation is amusing. But in the end, there are important lessons learned.The second storyline features a dream sequence that includes influential historical figures. What our family enjoyed about this episode is that it shows that racism is very real. It also gave us an opportunity to talk about ways to address it.Watch this episode together and talk about how you would have addressed the manager’s actions from Raven’s perspective and from Chelsea’s.

  4. Abbott Elementary: Season 2 Episode 14, “Valentine’s Day.” This episode is addresses the teaching of Black history in an unexpected way. We see this play out after a Black dad complains to the Black principal that a white male teacher is not qualified to teach Black history to his Black child. As the principal sits in to observe the teacher’s class, she begins to learn just how knowledgeable he really is about the subject, even leading to her enroll in night school to further her own education. This episode shows you don’t have be Black to be knowledgeable about Black history.Watch this episode together with your older kids and talk about how misconceptions and stereotypes can be overcome.

While these are just a few of our favorite episodes that touch on Black history, there are countless other shows you and your family can explore during this month (and beyond). Here is a list of streaming services with collections that feature the Black experience:

How is your family celebrating Black History Month? Let us know at tips@metrofamilymagazine.com.

Christina Mushi-Brunt is a former professor turned freelance writer and public health research consultant. Christina, her husband and their three kids reside in Moore, where she is active in the education community.

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