Black History Month for Yearbook

Girl thinking how to put Black history in the yearbook

As schools and businesses take action to be more inclusive, we can continue appreciating the differences that make us unique. Creating an inclusive yearbook is one way to embrace all members of your school community. 

As creatives, we appreciate the proverbial trailblazers who made our job easier. Below are four Black pioneers in design and technology that inspired our careers at Treering Yearbooks. Each of their stories and work are great discussion points; choose one a week to share at the start of yearbook class.

Gail Anderson’s Write Stuff

Typography is synonymous with Gail Anderson who served in the art department of Rolling Stone for 15 years, beginning in the late 1980s. She’s designed Broadway posters as well as a postage stamp commemorating the Emancipation Proclamation. Her blog showcases the power of type in design and is a teaching tool for any discussion on visual theme development. (It’s a jumpstart for when design projects get ho-hum.) Anderson, as an art director, creates connections between photography and text; and as an educator, she pushes her students to do the same. 

LeRoy Winbush put the Act in Activist

Graphic designer LeRoy Winbush spent his last years scuba diving (he learned to swim at age 40) and taking underwater photographs. Before that, he made a name as one of Chicago’s top designers. With commercial work in print media and signage, he transformed the banking industry by putting up window displays in Chicago. He started his own firm at a time when there were only a handful of Black graphic designers and became president of the Art Directors Club of Chicago five years after joining. (Winbush famously recounts it took 11 years to break the color barrier and become the first Black designer to be admitted.) He said to affect change, you have to be at the table, not on the sidelines, hence his active approach to all things. In addition to commercial design, he created educational exhibits on sickle cell anemia, the Amistad, and Underground Railroad. Winbush also spent time inspiring future creators at the university level.

Louis Latimer’s Legacy of Light

Louis Latimer, Civil War veteran and inventor, worked with Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison. During the Industrial Revolution, his mechanical drawings appeared in several patents, including the first telephone. The National Inventors Hall of Fame recognizes him for his patent on the carbon filament for lightbulbs, which made interior lighting safer and more accessible to people of all social classes. The modern lightbulb is often hailed as the invention of the 19th century–imagine those late yearbook nights without it. 

Dr. Marc Dean Proved Creativity Never Stops

Engineer and college professor Dr. Marc Dean held the patent (with 12 others) for the original IBM PC. Instrumental in the development of the color monitor, he created a buzz throughout his career by predicting advancements in technology while creating the means to make programming more intuitive. He was promoting a handheld, keyboardless computer before the tablet was a prototype. Dr. Dean’s defiance of tech and societal limitations pushed him to create solutions, a lesson we all can adopt.

Applications for Yearbook

These Black designers and technologists have stories, just like the scholars in our halls. Creating an inclusive yearbook means maximizing coverage and voices. Consider adding a few of the angles below:

Blast from the Past: Celebrate the Black leaders in your school community

Create a spotlight on noteworthy alumni, especially alumni with children currently attending.

Teachable Moments: Use the space to educate

If your school is named after a civil rights leader, add the history of its namesake.

Express Yourself: Feature student art

Use a spread to feature art done in the style of a Black artist such as Aaron Douglas, blackout poetry reinterpreting a text from Kwame Alexander or Kekla Magoon, or original creations from your student body.

High school student looks at canvas for Black History-themed artwork
Gallery spreads are opportunities to include original student works. Adding information about the medium and process gives readers another entry point into understanding the heart of the artist.

Reach Beyond the Walls: crowdsource content 

Use social media, parent newsletters, and word-of-mouth to crowdsource photos from Black History Month activities in your community

However your school celebrates its diversity, remember to cover it in the yearbook. This is a component of our journey to develop leaders and speak life into our students.

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