Langston Hughes was one of the foremost writers of the 1920s Harlem Renaissance, a movement which, in the words of Du Bose Heyward, "dignif[ied] Harlem with a genuine art life." Hughes' subject for his writing and his source for truth and profundity was the lives of ordiary black people. This angered the burgeoning black intelligentsia, who wanted to present white readers with a polished, cultured view of blacks. Nevertheless, Hughes succeeded in voicing the truths, hopes, and concerns of life in Harlem; as its spokesman he created poetry that has endured through many decades of racial strife. "Theme for English B" depicts a black student who is trying to find his own identity--as well as unity with those in the college classroom around him--in terms of characteristics, both external and internal. What is the narrator's reason for choosing the characteristics he does? What barriers or ties does this create, and how do his choices work for or against the idea of "America" that the narrator and his white instructor share?
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Reading - Short Enough to Read Aloud.
Connection and RelationshipDiversity and DifferenceHeritage and TraditionIdentity and CommunityJustice and EqualityKnowledge and UncertaintyPower and PrivilegeRace, Ethnicity and CultureTeaching and Learning
What makes it possible for us to connect to others? What gets in the way?How do we connect with those who are different from us?How do we learn to have dialogue across difference? What does it look like?Is difference a problem, an opportunity, a challenge or a gift?How have my past and heritage shaped me?How do we define who we are?What is the value of uncertainty?How do we know or identify privilege?How does race affect our relations to others?What does good teaching look like?
Civically Engaged Reader