Honoring African American Contributions: Rare Books

African American History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in US history. This week we will investigate rare books written by African Americans.
The African American Perspectives: Materials Selected from the Rare Book Collection  from the Library of Congress gives a panoramic and eclectic review of African American history and culture and is primarily comprised of two collections in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division: the African American Pamphlet Collection and the Daniel A. P. Murray Collection, with a date range of 1822 through 1909. Among the authors represented are Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Benjamin W. Arnett, Alexander Crummel, Emanuel Love, Lydia Maria Child, Kelly Miller, Charles Sumner, Mary Church Terrell, and Booker T. Washington.
The Library of Congress holds a rare book from William Edward Burghardt (W.E.B.) Du Bois. It features one of his most beloved creations, The Brownies’ Book, a serial published in 1920 and 1921. It is digitally presented here—22 back-to-back chronological issues. It was the first magazine of its kind, written for African-American children and youths to instill a sense of racial pride and provide overall instruction on how to conduct oneself. Du Bois is credited with establishing the genre of African-American children’s literature. The Brownies’ Book is considered part of the movement known as the Harlem Renaissance, a time of great African American artistic expression.
“African American Perspectives: Women Authors” shares details from the lives of the sisters Angelina and Sarah Grimké,  who became two of America’s most prominent female abolitionists. They also supported women’s rights and were instrumental in linking the two crusades. Also profiled is influential writer and editor Lydia Maria Child. The social reformer Clarissa Olds Keeler is also featured.
Many rare books have been digitized so they can be accessed wherever you are.

Curious about the NCTE and Library of Congress connection? Through a grant announced recently by NCTE Executive Director Emily Kirkpatrick, NCTE is engaged in new ongoing work with the Library of Congress, and “will connect the ELA community with the Library of Congress to expand the use of primary sources in teaching.” Stay tuned for more throughout the year!
It is the policy of NCTE in all publications, including the Literacy & NCTE blog, to provide a forum for the open discussion of ideas concerning the content and the teaching of English and the language arts. Publicity accorded to any particular point of view does not imply endorsement by the Executive Committee, the Board of Directors, the staff, or the membership at large, except in announcements of policy, where such endorsement is clearly specified.

February Is Black History Month. Periodt.

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Want a National Effort to Combat COVID Learning Loss? Study Your Black History.

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Posted Feb. 26, 2021

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What Will Happen in Your School When Black History Month Is Over?

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Posted Feb. 23, 2021

Reyna Morales lives in Oakland, California, and is the parent of two students at a high-performing charter school located in an area with a dearth…

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Meet Newark’s Own Amanda Gorman, Seventh Grade Poet Makayla Brown

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Posted Feb. 23, 2021

Reyna Morales lives in Oakland, California, and is the parent of two students at a high-performing charter school located in an area with a dearth…

Posted Feb. 22, 2021

“I am a white ally,” the 30 something-year-old white teacher declared emphatically in the diversity and inclusion professional development session. She snapped her fingers to…

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A month ago, as Amanda Gorman shared her beautiful prose during President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’ inauguration, students at KIPP Rise Academy in Newark had…

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Honoring African American Contributions: Playwrights

African American History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in US history. This week we will look at the legacy of African American playwrights.
A Raisin in the Sun is a play by Lorraine Hansberry that tells the story of a Black family’s experiences in the Washington Park Subdivision of Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood as they attempt to “better” themselves. With A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry was the first African American woman to have a play produced on Broadway. This lesson from ReadWriteThink.org invites students to explore the things relevant to a character from Lorraine Hansberry’s play A Raisin in the Sun, such as Mama’s plant, to unlock the drama’s underlying symbolism and themes. Students explore character traits and participate in active learning as they work with the play. Students use an interactive drama map to explore character and conflict, and then write and share character-item poems.
Another African American playwright, August Wilson, won critical acclaim, including the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play, for his play Fences. It’s currently a major motion picture directed by Denzel Washington, starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. Students can read Fences, then watch the film and compare the two.
Another August Wilson play, The Piano Lesson, invites students to ask a number of questions—big and small—about the characters, setting, conflict, and symbols in the work. After reading the first act, students learn how to create effective discussion questions and then put them to use in student-led seminar discussions after Act 1 and again at the end of the play. Read more in the ReadWriteThink.org lesson plan, “Facilitating Student-Led Seminar Discussions with The Piano Lesson.”
This collection from the Library of Congress presents ten plays written by Zora Neale Hurston, author, anthropologist, and folklorist. Read more about those plays from this blog post. In Zora Neale Hurston in the Classroom, a book in the NCTE High School Literature Series, readers will discover new ways to share the work of this important author with students. The book offers a practical approach to Hurston using a range of student-centered activities for teaching Hurston’s nonfiction, short stories, and the print and film versions of Their Eyes Were Watching God.
Interested in musical theater? Read this blog post from the Library of Congress for some fascinating details about historical Black musical theater.

Curious about the NCTE and Library of Congress connection? Through a grant announced recently by NCTE Executive Director Emily Kirkpatrick, NCTE is engaged in new ongoing work with the Library of Congress, and “will connect the ELA community with the Library of Congress to expand the use of primary sources in teaching.” Stay tuned for more throughout the year!
It is the policy of NCTE in all publications, including the Literacy & NCTE blog, to provide a forum for the open discussion of ideas concerning the content and the teaching of English and the language arts. Publicity accorded to any particular point of view does not imply endorsement by the Executive Committee, the Board of Directors, the staff, or the membership at large, except in announcements of policy, where such endorsement is clearly specified.

White People, Celebrate Black History Month By Facing the Truth of White Supremacy

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A war has been waging in my home state of Illinois, and the battle lines have been drawn. In one corner of the ring—the “uber…

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Honoring African American Contributions: Manuscripts

African American History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in US history. Let’s dig in to some manuscripts written by African American authors. A manuscript is a written or typewritten composition or document as distinguished from a printed copy.
In his classic novel Native Son, Richard Wright tells the story of a poverty-stricken young black man who takes a job as a chauffeur to a white family in Chicago, accidentally kills the daughter, and tries to cover it up. For decades, the film version of “Native Son” didn’t tell the whole story—the result of censorship before its US release. The collection of the Library of Congress includes Wright’s original vision, both on film and paper, for future audiences. View the manuscript here.
As a lecturer, political activist, and educator, Mary Church Terrell dedicated her life to improving social conditions for African American women. The digital collections of the Library of Congress contain a wide variety of material associated with Terrell, including the Mary Church Terrell Papers from the Manuscript Division. Terrell helped to organize self-help programs promulgated by leaders such as Booker T. Washington to directing sit-down strikes and boycotts in defiance of Jim Crow discrimination. She aided in the founding of two of the most important black political action groups, the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The Terrell Papers reflect all phases of her public career.
The Frederick Douglass Papers at the Library of Congress presents the papers of the nineteenth-century African American abolitionist who escaped from slavery and then risked his own freedom by becoming an outspoken antislavery lecturer, writer, and publisher. The online collection, containing approximately 7,400 items (38,000 images), spans the years 1841–1964, with the bulk of the material dating from 1862 to 1865.  Many of Douglass’s earlier writings were destroyed when his house in Rochester, New York, burned in 1872. The Speech, Article and Book File contains the writings of Douglass and his contemporaries in the abolitionist and women’s rights movements and includes autographed copies of editorials and opinion pieces from Douglass’ antislavery weekly, North Star, and a partial handwritten draft of Douglass’s third autobiography, The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass.
Today is also the celebrated birthday of Frederick Douglass. Although Douglass was born into bondage, and never knew his birthdate, he chose to celebrate every year on February 14th. Douglass Day is celebrated this day each year as a collective act of service for Black history.
Curious about the NCTE and Library of Congress connection? Through a grant announced recently by NCTE Executive Director Emily Kirkpatrick, NCTE is engaged in new ongoing work with the Library of Congress, and “will connect the ELA community with the Library of Congress to expand the use of primary sources in teaching.” Stay tuned for more throughout the year!
It is the policy of NCTE in all publications, including the Literacy & NCTE blog, to provide a forum for the open discussion of ideas concerning the content and the teaching of English and the language arts. Publicity accorded to any particular point of view does not imply endorsement by the Executive Committee, the Board of Directors, the staff, or the membership at large, except in announcements of policy, where such endorsement is clearly specified.

The Government Is Still Preventing the Rise of the Black Messiah in Schools Today

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To the People Pushing Back on Culturally Responsive Teaching During Black History Month

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Posted Feb. 11, 2021

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Prior to COVID-19 upending American education, some state legislatures around the country considered moratoriums or “pauses” on public charter schools; while others, like in California,…

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