Courageous Black Lives black history

Courageous Black Lives – Mifflin Gibbs and Lucille Clifton

In History by Caris Adel3 Comments

Last fall I taught a class at our homeschool co-op on Courageous Black Lives. I was a little nervous about doing this topic, but ended up being able to frame the class in a way that not only discusses the courage and bravery of over 30 people that I want the kids to recognize, but also talks about the powers of white supremacy that they were fighting against. I’m slowly posting what we did and links to resources I used.

What does it mean to be Courageous? We’re going to look at why people were so bold and courageous, why they seemed to do things out of the ordinary, and what the ordinary things were that they were standing up against. Why did they need to be courageous? Each week we’ll look at a person throughout history, along with a creative black person that you should be familiar with who used their art courageously.


Mifflin Wistar Gibbs

Mifflin Gibbs

Born: April 17, 1823

Died: July 11, 1915

An African-American attorney, judge, diplomat and banker. Born in Philadelphia, he moved to California as a young man during the Gold Rush.


Watch whole thing

The Story of Mifflin Gibbs – Shaw TV Victoria

Shaw TV’s Sucheta Singh learns about Mifflin Gibbs, an influential pioneer from Victoria’s gold rush days.



Mifflin Gibbs biography, summarized from Hurry Freedom by Jerry Stanley

Mifflin Gibbs biography, summarized from Hurry Freedom by Jerry Stanley Mifflin Gibbs was born in Pennsylvania in 1823. By his early 20s he was helping in the Underground Railroad. Gibbs moved to San Francisco during the Gold Rush years, where he was soon a successful merchant, a leading member…

Power Discussion

Using the form below, we reviewed the lesson and they filled in the squares. Some of the kids drew pictures to represent it if they didn’t want to write it all out.

Who Had the Power?  California government & Supreme Court,

What Was the Injustice? not testifying in court, not allowed to vote, & slavery

Who Were the Allies? white people taking petition to capitol, white people not buying shoes, & Canada

How Could It Have Been Fixed? let them testify in court, end slavery, & let them vote

What Were the Acts of Resistance and Courage? writing the petitions, helping slaves escape, successful businessman, & California Conventions

Power Worksheet



Laws and Practices 

(we’re going to keep a list of all the laws we come across)

– Dred Scott ruling

– California laws

   – An Act Concerning Crimes and Punishment

   – 1852 Fugitive Slave Law

“We wish to inform the public that we are a law-abiding class of people, even though we are governed by unjust laws.” – Mifflin Gibbs
Lucille Clifton

Lucille Clifton

Born: June 27, 1936

Died: February 13, 2010

American poet, writer, and educator from Buffalo, New York. From 1979 to 1985 she was Poet Laureate of Maryland.


Watch whole thing.

Poetry Everywhere: “won’t you celebrate with me” by Lucille Clifton

Lucille Clifton reads her poem “won’t you celebrate with me.” Part of the Poetry Everywhere project airing on public television. Produced by David Grubin Productions and WGBH Boston, in association with the Poetry Foundation. Filmed at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival. For more information, visit

Watch the first minute/poem

Lucille Clifton reading at the 2006 Dodge Poetry Festival

“aunt jemima” and “afterblues”

Watch 5:05-6:33

Poet Lucille Clifton Reads From Voices at the 92Y

Poet Lucille Clifton passed away recently at the age of 73. The New York Times recalled that Clifton: “…received a National Book Award in 2000 for Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems, 1988-2000, published by BOA Editions.


Everything Is Connected

Remembering Lucille Clifton

Read poems and look at the advertisements, discussing the meanings of the poems.

Lucille Clifton poems/images

Listen children Listen children keep this in the place you have for keeping always, keep it all ways We have never hated black Listen we have been ashamed hopeless tired mad but always all ways we loved us We have always loved each other children all ways Pass it on aunt jem…

“One thing poetry teaches us, if anything, is that everything is connected. There is so much history that we have not validated.”- Lucille Clifton 
“But I do know that I feel that it is dishonorable to not recognize, if you’re going to give something human-ness, to not recognize it as human.” – Lucille Clifton 

The main discussion points I wanted to get across were: How black people were viewed and portrayed by white people and advertisements. Talk about the terms aunt and uncle, how it sounded respectful but was actually dehumanizing. We talked about black women being servants, and giving so much of their time and effort to serving white families, what it meant to pose and smile for white people, to be rendered personless and nameless. I hoped that by using products that the kids will see in the grocery store, it will be a good reminder of what we discussed.

  Print and handout appropriate page



Week 1 – Benjamin Banneker and Music from Slavery

Week 2 – Harriet Ann Jacobs and Eubie Blake

Week 3 – Mifflin Gibbs and Lucille Clifton

Week 4 – Robert Smalls and Elizabeth Catlett


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  • Leslie DeJarnette

    Thanks for sharing your key points. This would be a great class for our co-op, too. It’s so important to teach multi-cultural respect. Every tribe, tongue and nation will be worshiping the Father together in Heaven one day!

  • Cyndel Jones

    What age group are these books best for?
    I’m hoping to do this with my 8yo but I’m not sure of the age appropriateness of the books.

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