African Americans in Astronomy and Astrophysics

A two-part lesson focuses on the contributions to the fields of astronomy and astrophysics of two African Americans: Benjamin Banneker and Dr. George Carruthers. In part one, scholars learn about Benjamin Banneker by examining his almanac and reading a letter Banneker wrote to Thomas Jefferson about racial equality. In part two, pupils meet Dr. George Carruthers and learn about his life as well as his contributions to the space race and to the Apollo 15 mission. To conclude the lessons, class members compare the social and historical challenges Banneker faced to those faced by Carruthers.

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CCSS: Designed
Instructional Ideas
  • Bring in or have class members bring in copies of almanacs
Classroom Considerations
  • Requires 15 minutes of prep time for each of the two parts of the lesson
  • Groups need access to internet connected devices
Pros
  • Includes a list of African American astronomers or astrophysicists that groups can choose from for additional research
Cons
  • None