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Use ArcGIS Online to document the connection between Black History and music

February is Black History month in North America. This is an opportunity for your students to explore Black History in Canada and the United States and its connection to music, using ArcGIS Online. Read this blog for some ideas on how your students can create maps to learn more about Black History.

Most people would agree that it’s hard to live without music. It energizes us, comforts us and makes us feel connected to others. We can also learn so much through music, as it is a creative outlet that drives people to document their personal struggle during times of intense social and political change. A song has the ability to provide insight into the life of a slave who used the underground railroad to find freedom in Canada. Music is a great avenue to connect us to the past, as we learn about the hardships Black North Americans endured and the music that has been inspired by difficult events.

In North America, February is dedicated to celebrating the lives and contributions of the Black community. However, no matter what month it is, you can explore the roots of popular music and jazz through the struggles and feats of Black communities in Canada and the United States.

Using ArcGIS Online, you can create a story map that highlights African influences in modern music:

  1. Select a genre of music that’s rooted in North American Black History, such as Hip-Hop, Soul, R&B or Jazz
    1. Create a web map to locate where the music genre was started
    2. What was the political or social climate for Black people at the time?
    3. Include in the web map - who and where the pioneers of that genre were from
  2. Select a Black Canadian or American musician
    1. Document their roots in a web map and the contributions they made to the music world


Harriet Tubman used spiritual songs like “Wade in the Water” to guide slaves to freedom in Canada. This particular song includes secret code messages for escaping slaves.

  1. Select a protest song or spiritual song written by a Black Canadian or American
    1. Document the meaning behind the song and include events in a web map that are connected to their experiences
  2. Explore the African origins of instruments used in many forms of popular music, such as drums, guitar and banjo
    1. Create a web map to locate where the instrument is from and how it arrived in North America
    2. Document what genres of music those instruments are  used in

Consider this – if the Black History of North America was different, how would the music sound?

If you are new to ArcGIS Online, you can sign up for an account at and you can use the following tutorials to get started:

Explore this story map to “Discover 23 Black Canadians you should know.”

Explore some of our Black History resources:

If you have any questions or would like to share your work with us, contact us at


About the Author

Angela Alexander is a K-12 Education Resource Developer on the Esri Canada Education and Research team. She has over six years of experience working with educators across Canada. Angela is responsible for producing geographic information system (GIS) and curriculum specific resources, conducting and creating custom workshops for educators and judging and developing the question for the annual GIS Skills Ontario competition in Waterloo, Ontario. Angela has a Bachelor’s degree in Geography and Sociology from the University of Western Ontario and completed the Applied Digital Geography and GIS certificate program at Ryerson University.

Profile Photo of Angela Alexander