Silhouette puppets for Black History month

Joseph Bologne, Ruby Bridges, Booker T. Washington, Toni Morrison, Paul Robeson, Langston Hughes, Benjamin Banneker, Elizabeth Freeman

Most of the puppets in the Black History section of our Printable Library are the result of shadow puppetry projects that I did during Black History month with my friend Davie-Lyn Jones, a fifth grade teacher. But you do not need a light and screen to use silhouette puppets for Black History month. It’s just as fun to use them as hand-held puppets in a group activity or in front of the classroom after students have researched their subjects. Let the puppets introduce the people they represent and interview each about their experiences and contributions to history as activists, authors, musicians, scholars, educators, and athletes.


To make hand-held puppets you will need the following supplies:

  • Black cardstock paper or black poster board (as thick as possible)
  • Small pointed scissors, sharp enough to make small holes
  • Scotch tape
  • Smallest size split pins or scrapbooking brads
  • Masking/painting tape (preferably black)
  • Barbecue skewers 
  • Sticky back adhesive velcro tape (use separate scissors to cut the velcro as glue will stick to blades)

Below you will find a list of puppets with full patterns that can be downloaded from the Printable Library, as well as lists of puppets that only have profiles, to which students need to add bodies from different patterns. For instructions how to put the puppets together use this Step-by-step guide to making a shadow puppet from templates.

Full puppets

Most puppets in this section are from pre-Civil War times, in particular relating to the Underground Railroad. Links provided are to posts at Past Times History site.

Face profiles to add to a body

Muhammad Ali, Mary Ann Shadd, Frederick Douglass, Wilma Rudolph, Jackie Robinson, Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou, W.E.B. Du Bois18th and 19th Century

Profiles for the the people below may be found on the patterns Famous African Americans 1 and Famous African Americans 2. For their bodies choose patterns from the 19th Century Mix and Match Section. Adjust clothes where needed, based on online research about the protagonist and clothes worn by people at their time. Links below are usually to Wikipedia articles.

  • Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806): Self-taught astronomer, surveyor, almanac publisher
  • Elizabeth Freeman (c. 1744-1829): First enslaved African American to file and win a freedom suit
  • Joseph Bologne (1745-1799) (“the Black Mozart”): Violinist, conductor, composer, born enslaved but free in France
  • Frederick Douglass (c. 1817-1897): Abolitionist, social reformer
  • Mary Ann Shadd Cary (1823-1893): abolitionist, journalist, suffragist, educator

20th Century

Profiles for the people below may be found on the patterns Famous African Americans 1 and Famous African Americans 2. For their bodies choose patterns from the section Puppet Templates to Use with Profile Silhouettes. Adjust clothes, based on online research about the protagonists and clothes worn by people at their time.  Links are usually to Wikipedia articles.

  • William E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963): Educator, journalist, scholar
  • Paul Robeson (1898-1976): Concert singer, actor
  • Langston Hughes (1901-1967): Poet, social activist, novelist, playwright
  • Rosa Parks (1913-2005): Civil Rights activist
  • Jackie Robinson (1919-1972): First African American to play in Major League Baseball (MLB)
  • Maya Angelou (1928-2014): Poet, author, activist
  • Toni Morrison (1931-2019): Novelist, winner of the Nobel Prize in literature 1993
  • Wilma Rudolph (1940-1994): Olympian sprinter
  • Muhammad Ali (1942-2016): Boxer, anti-Vietnam war activist
  • Ruby Bridges (b. 1954): First to attend a formerly whites-only Elementary School in Louisiana as the only African American child, accompanied by federal marshals to ensure her safety
  • Booker T. Washington (1956-1915):  Educator, author

Looking for a different person?

If you would like to make a puppet of somebody who is not represented, you can make your own by looking for a profile photo or other image online. You can find instructions how to make a puppet of any historical figure in this post.


Silhouette puppets for Black History Month

Helene van Rossum

Author: Helene at Past Times

Helene is the founder of Past Times and a crafter, archivist, and children’s book author. Her passion is bringing history to life for children, classrooms, and families through imagination and play.

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