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UCLA History-Geography Project Offers Curriculum Resource for Exploring Black History in Santa Monica

By John McDonald

Materials offer learning resources for Black History Month and beyond 


The UCLA History-Geography Project has collaborated with the City of Santa Monica to develop curriculum materials commemorating the history of African American visitors, residents and business owners in the South Beach neighborhoods, including  the historic Belmar neighborhood. The curriculum includes lessons for 3rd and 4th grade teachers, 8th grade U.S. history teachers, 11th Grade U.S. history teachers, and ethnic studies teachers. The curriculum is aligned to the California History-Social Science Framework and the California Common Core Standards for Literacy in History. They are available for both face-to-face instruction and remote teaching.

The materials include “Face to Face,” lessons, with resources plumbing the experiences of members of the Black community in the past in Santa Monica and exploring questions such as,”What actions did people take in order to live freely in my community? What informed actions can we take today?”  Older students tackle  questions such as, “How did the African Americans of Santa Monica and Los Angeles challenge racial discrimination and segregation at beaches to form community spaces during the 1900s?”

The materials include resources illustrating Black life in Santa Monica, such as a photograph of  “Grace Williams, Albert Williams, Mary Mingleton and Willie Williams enjoying the day at the Bay Street Beach, 1926,” from the LA Public Library’s, Shades of LA Collection. 

There are additional grade level lessons, providing an overview of the topic and directions, with questions to guide lessons, and vocabulary terms and source materials such as newspaper articles and additional photographs from the region and period.  There are also links for teachers to step-by-step directions and literacy content standards. 

“This curriculum is intended to help youth in our community understand that the Civil Rights Movement did not only take place in the South. That there are some amazing stories of joy, community and resistance that have been largely forgotten,” said Daniel Diaz, the Director of the UCLA History-Geography Project.  “Bringing the amazing scholarship of Alison Rose Jefferson to K12 classrooms is an amazing accomplishment and the teachers that collaborated on this project need recognition for creating these lesson plans. Sarah Rodriguez and Adrienne Karyadi from Santa Monica High School wrote the high school lessons. Cristina Paul from the UCLA Lab School wrote the elementary lessons and Shomara Gooden, a middle school teacher from Lynwood, wrote the 8th grade lesson."

The curriculum project is accompanied by a video conversation with Professor Alison Rose Jefferson titled, “How did African Americans in Santa Monica work to make the “California Dream” a Reality? Jefferson discusses her groundbreaking research on the ways that the Civil Rights Movement played out in Southern California, noting that  places of leisure, such as pools and beaches, were often the center of the African American civil rights movement.  In the video, Professor Jefferson delves into the history of the Belmar Neighborhood in Santa Monica, a vibrant African American community.

Learn more on the UCLA History and Geography website at