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Teacher Feature

Notable American Citizens


While Booker T. Washington was the first African American whose image appeared on a U.S. coin, there have been numerous other influential African Americans whose portraits have not yet graced the obverse or reverse of a coin.  This is a great opportunity for your students to explore a bit of African American history through the use of coins.


In your classroom display the obverse and reverse images of the Booker T. Washington commemorative coin (either the real coin, or photographs of the coin's sides).  After gauging your class' knowledge of Booker T. Washington, read them a simple children's biography of Washington's life.  With your students, develop a list of reasons why Booker T. Washington's life was commemorated with a coin.  Show your students some of the other coins made to commemorate the lives and work of influential African Americans.  (Look at the United States Mint's main Web site to find information on the Black Revolutionary War Patriots Commemorative Collection, or the Jackie Robinson Commemorative Coin Set.) Examine the designs that were chosen for these coins.  How do they preserve the memory of these important Americans?

Have each of your students select the name of a different African American to research.  Direct your students to write a convincing argument for why that person's contributions to the U.S. should be commemorated with a coin.  Also, direct your students to create a design for the obverse and reverse of their proposed coin.  Have your students read their proposals to the class.


  • Have your students write a report on the lives of their chosen citizens.
  • Work with each of your students write and memorize a 1-2 minute speech about the lives of their chosen citizen.  Have them bring in a costume and props that would be associated with their selected individual, so that they can participate in a living wax museum.  Arrange with other teachers to bring their classes to your room on a particular date to tour your class' museum.  Cut out circles to act as buttons for the visiting students to press to hear about the lives of these important Americans.


The project described above reflects some of the national standards of learning as defined by the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS), the National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE), and the International Society for Technology in Education.  These standards are listed below:

Language Arts Standards

Demonstrate competence in the general skills and strategies of the writing process.  The students will use written language to express the reasons that their selected citizen should be commemorated with a U.S. coin.

Demonstrate competence in the general skills and strategies of the reading process.  Demonstrate competence in speaking and listening as tools for learning.  Students will read their proposals to the class.

Social Studies Standards

Individual Development & Identity: Students will examine the lives of several important American citizens, and explore the influence that their lives have had on U.S. culture.

Culture:  Students will explore the ways in which people think about and affect the social conditions of their environments.

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