African American Literature Classes Embrace Culture

By Amanda McBain ’18

        African American culture will captivate the minds of students this year in the new African American Literature class. The class aims to introduce students to great aspects of African American culture and history that have not been touched on before in the education system.

        “We don’t study African American history and literature in depth, and there was a need to do so,” said Assistant Principal of English, Ms. Suzane Thomas.

        The class will cover a range of topics, starting with West African history in the fall and leading into the Civil Rights Movement and Harlem Renaissance in the spring. The class will also look at modern interpretations of African American history, such as modern-day slavery, all while connecting literature with history and the arts.

        “We will be covering race as a social construct and not as a scientifically proven issue, implicit bias, and structural oppression,” said African American Literature teacher Ms. Antoinette Thorne.

Ms. Thomas and Ms. Thorne want to expose students to a part of their history which was significantly hidden from them through the education system.

        “I want students to take away that black is great and that they have contributed to society in a various number of formats; however, it hasn’t been academically displayed continuously, so it leads to furthering stereotypes of what we believe African American to be,” said Ms. Thorne.

        Student will be engaging in various projects, such as a family tree where students are required to research as far back as possible in their own ancestry and to take on the persona of a slave in a narrative.

To help formulate a curriculum for the course, the teachers have used works of literature, such as Through African Eyes by Leon E. Clark and Africa: Selective Readings by Fred Burke. The class will study the works of major African-American writers, including Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes.

        To bridge the gap between African American history and the students, the class wants to make it clear to students that there is a personal connection for all of the students.

        “I will try dispel certain myths and ask them what are their own perceptions of their family and their perceptions about Africa,” said Ms. Thomas.

        Students were very motivated to be exposed to different aspects of a culture even if  they were unfamiliar with it.

        “I believe that learning about other cultures is the first step to truly understanding a person. I’m truly interested in learning about the challenges African Americans faced in the past and now,” said Josephine Leung ’18.

        Students are able to learn more about their peers’ thoughts and opinions through daily open discussions within the classroom.

        “The classroom experience is very open. Students respect their classmates’ opinions and have discussions on current issues. The best part is listening to everyone’s ideas, giving me a different perspective on certain topics,” said Alejandra Cruz ’18.

        There are currently only two sections of the course, but as students become immersed in different aspects of African American Literature, the class may grow.

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