Behind the Scenes
5 BrainPOP Movies That Celebrate Black Joy for Black History Month
“Why don’t we celebrate Black History Month allllllll the time?”
I’ve never forgotten the time a sweet, bright-eyed, expectant four year old asked me this question. I was reading a colorful picture book, written by a Black author and illustrator, to my daughter’s preschool class. The book was given to me around the time my daughter was born. I remember flipping through it with a swelling, pregnant belly. I had all the excited nerves first-time parents experience, and was filled with joy at the thought of reading books about our Black history and culture to my baby.
My baby grew into a toddler and my toddler turned into a preschooler. The preschooler—a budding reader with a voice filled with eagerness—begged me to bring some of her favorite books to read to her class during Black History Month.
“You know what?” I asked 15 future leaders, “Black History Month should be taught year-round, don’t you think?”
“Yes!” yelped my daughter’s classmates, bursting with all of the cheeriness and joy their tiny bodies could muster.
Black History Month was a big part of my home life as a child, so I’m passionate about teaching Black history to my kids. I grew up going to schools where my Black culture wasn’t always considered or taught, whether or not it was Black History Month—but I was always aware of my Blackness. I found joy in learning about the achievements and deeds of my ancestors and other Black Americans who persevered and thrived despite many hardships. My parents were huge proponents of supplementing education at home with lessons on family history, reading, and trips that revolved around different themes and well-known people each year. One year they focused our exploration on famous Black inventors, and the next on our relatives—like my grandfather, the late Lawson E. Thomas, the first Black judge in the South after Reconstruction.
Every year, Black History Month has a theme, and in 2022 it is Black Health and Wellness. This important theme provides an opportunity to discuss and remember the lives and legacies of Black birth workers, medical practitioners, and scholars—past and present—while exploring the importance of emotional health and wellness. As BrainPOP’s new senior social media manager, I am excited to highlight this theme across our social channels this year!
I am also a longtime fan of BrainPOP, and my kids have loved BrainPOP and BrainPOP Jr. for years. Together, we’ve watched and discussed many movies, particularly those covering Black history and culture. Below are five topics that my kindergartner, third grader, and I especially enjoy:
George Washington Carver: Also known as “the plant doctor,” George Washington Carver was one of the most notable Black Americans in science. The movie highlights Carver’s life and successes. My two little humans really enjoyed the connection to plants, as we are a family that grows our vegetables and herbs. We especially appreciated the conversation around the many uses for sweet potatoes, which we grow every year!
Mae Jemison: The first Black woman to travel to space is an inspiration! Like many Black people, Jemison didn’t see herself represented very often as a child. When she saw the character portrayed by Nichelle Nichol in “Star Trek,” she knew that a Black woman in space was a possibility. We can’t get enough of her story.
Ruby Bridges: The story of Ruby Bridges is one of our favorites. Many kids can’t begin to fathom having to do what she did. My six year old still has a hard time understanding why a young child had to endure so much.
Jazz: Nothing lights up our home more than music. Jazz has been a staple in American culture. The influence our people have on such a beautiful genre of music is highlighted in this BrainPOP movie.
Harlem Renaissance: It looks like we’ll have to take a trip to Harlem soon! This movie was engaging and exciting. In addition to marching around the house pretending to play trumpets, we got to chat about terms like Pan-Africanism and “double consciousness.”
These are just a few of the movies we have enjoyed as a family. BrainPOP has a fantastic collection of Black history and culture topics, complete with lessons that spur important dialogue. If nothing else, this year I encourage you to do all you can to learn something new about Black history and share that knowledge with others. After all, if a four year old can see the importance of learning Black history all year round—through books, experiences, and BrainPOP—it should be simple enough for the rest of us, right?
Brittany Minor is senior social media manager at BrainPOP.