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Monday Morning Ready01.24.2020
Jumpstart Your Week!

Harriet Tubman's first act as a free woman was simple. As she later told biographer Sarah Bradford, after crossing the Pennsylvania state boundary line in September 1849, "I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through the trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven."... < read more >
Grade 3-4

What was the most interesting thing you knew about Harriet Tubman before reading this article? What is the most interesting thing you know about her now?

Grade 5-6

Why do you think Harriet Tubman was such a successful conductor on the Underground Railroad?

Grade 7-8

According to the article, up to now Harriet Tubman's life story has mainly been told in children's books and through cameo appearances in Civil War dramas. Why do you think it's taken so long to have a full-length feature film dedicated to her life?

Grade 9-10

According to the article, the film "Harriet" focuses on Harriet Tubman's work on the Underground Railroad and does not address the bulk of her long life. If you could make another movie about Harriet Tubman that focused on a different part of her life, what would it cover? How do you think it would affect people's understanding of this courageous woman and the role she played in African American history?

Pitch a Movie About African American History


  1. Tell students that before any movie can be made, one thing has to be done: Someone has to pitch the idea to those who will make the movie. They have to sell their idea and convince the buyers it will be a success. And they don't have much time to do this.
  2. Explain that the first thing you have to do when writing a pitch is to grab people's attention. Write one or two sentences, or a logline, that captures the big idea by summarizing the core conflict and leaves buyers wanting to learn more.
  3. Then, you must write a brief outline of your idea. Don't tell the whole story, but do introduce the main characters and summarize the plot. Emphasize key details or moments that make your story unique and worth watching.
  4. The final step is presentation. Remember, you are selling your idea. Be confident. Be enthusiastic. Present your idea and answer any questions the buyers have with brief, accurate answers.
  5. Have students identify a famous African American or a notable event in African American history. Instruct them to conduct research to learn about their topic and then write a pitch-both logline and outline-to turn that story into a movie.
  6. Invite students to pitch their ideas to the class. Encourage classmates to ask questions about each idea. Challenge presenters to give brief, accurate answers.


After all ideas have been presented, have students discuss the merits of each pitch they heard. Then have the class vote to choose the idea most students would like to see made into a movie. Discuss reasons why students think this movie would be a success.


Grades 3-4:
As a class, select one famous African American. Divide the class into small groups. Give groups time to conduct research to learn about the person and then write a pitch for a movie based on that person's life. Compare and contrast the results.
Grades 5-6:
Divide the class into small groups. Instruct each group to select one famous African American or event in African American history. Give groups time to conduct research to learn about the person or event. Then have them write a pitch for a movie based on the person's life or event they selected.
Grades 7-8:
Divide the class into pairs. Have each pair select famous person in African American history. Give partners time to conduct research to learn about that person's life. Instruct them to analyze the information they collected and decide how best to boil it down for a two-hour movie. Then have them write a pitch to turn their idea into a movie. Remind students that movie executives have very busy schedules. Challenge them to present their ideas in less than three minutes.
Grades 9-10:
Divide the class into pairs. Have each pair select notable event in African American history. Give partners time to conduct research to learn as much as possible about that event. Instruct them to analyze the information they collected and decide how best to boil it down for a two-hour movie. Then have them write a pitch to turn their idea into a movie. Challenge students to write a strong one-sentence logline and a brief outline that takes no more than three minutes to present.
What You Never Knew About Harriet Tubman
One of our nation’s greatest heroes, Harriet Tubman led slaves north to freedom via secret paths and waterways. But her skills also made her a valuable military asset to the Union Army. Watch this Smithsonian Channel video to learn more.

Collection Stories
Invite students to explore this site, in which National Museum of African American History & Culture staff share their interpretation of the museum’s collections they find most powerful from a variety of perspectives.

Math Quilts
In this lesson from the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, elementary students will examine geometric quilt patterns to learn how math may have been used to help slaves escape to freedom. They will slide, flip and turn geometric shapes to create a map quilt.

Picturing the Civil Rights Movement: Photographs by Charles Moore
This Smithsonian History Explorer learner resource includes a 26-minute documentary where Charles Moore explains the context of many of his famous civil rights images. As students examine the images, they think about the importance of photojournalism to the civil rights movement.

Black Wings: African American Pioneer Aviators
The invention of the airplane sparked a revolution in modern technology. Beginning in the 1920s, a small number of determined black air enthusiasts challenged racial discrimination. Explore the resources on this National Air and Space Museum site to learn how with great effort—and against formidable odds—they realized their dream to fly.

History Explorer Podcast: Harlem Globetrotters and Early Professional Basketball
In this episode of the History Explorer podcast series, curator Eric Jentsch discusses the history of the Harlem Globetrotters, an all-African American basketball team that barnstormed through segregated America to become the world’s most recognizable sports team.

Separate Is Not Equal: Brown v. Board of Education
Explore the exhibition and teaching resources on this National Museum of American History site to learn about a landmark case that proved to be a turning point in American history.

The Art and Life of William H. Johnson
In these Smithsonian Education lessons, students examine works by African American painter William H. Johnson to learn about his milieu as well as his style.

Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie Bunch Weighs in on Legendary Photo Archive of African-American Life
Read this Smithsonian magazine article to learn how, in a historic moment, foundations and museums came together to rescue black history.