Happy Birthday to Langston Hughes, graduate of Lincoln University of PA, Man of Omega Psi Phi, Classmate of Thurgood Marshall. A pivotal figure in the Harlem Renaissance who believed the American education system reinforced systemic racism as much as the country's political systems, and who sought to write books for young readers that showed Black children themselves and told stories of those who looked like them. Culturally responsive pedagogy before it had a name. While a student at Lincoln University, Hughes published his first book of poems, "The Weary Blues." He also published an essay, "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain," which was considered one of the cornerstone documentations of the Harlem Renaissance. In it, he said the true problem Black artists -- and Black people --- faced was "this urge within the race toward whiteness, the desire to pour racial individuality into the mold of American standardization, and to be as little Negro and as much American as possible.”
Young Students (K3-2nd Grade)
Langston Hughes wrote poetry that ignored normal poetry rules to instead reflect the way the people he wrote about talked. It was more important to him that his poetry served as a voice for those people weren't listening to than that it was "proper." In what ways can you use your voice to help people who don't usually get heard?
Middle Students (Grades 3-8)
One of Langston Hughes' most famous poems was called "I, Too, Am America." Why do you think he felt compelled to add the "too" in the middle? What impact did this emphasis have on his message?
High School Students (Grades 9-12)
Why do you think Langston Hughes said the greatest problem of Negro artists was the issue of assimilation? In what ways could wanting to be as little of one's self to fit into the bigger society be harmful? Are there any instances when it's helpful?
How are you showing up for your students in and their ability to bring their full identities to your classroom and life in general? Are you being truly antiracist in your approach to teaching, or are you perpetuating a system that encourages students to shirk their racial identities to fit into a broader system of oppression?
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About the Series
A Black Child Can was founded to create a better world for students by empowering the adults around them with the knowledge they need to advocate on their behalf. The 2022 blog series builds on this foundation, encouraging educators to participate in the discussion and reflect on the ways they're showing up for their students.