English I classes study Black authors from the Harlem Renaissance to the present, including poems by Langston Hughes, Georgia Douglas Johnson, Claude McKay, Gwendolyn Brooks, Terrance Hayes, and Tracy K. Smith. Next week, during Black History Month, we will begin reading Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun.
English II classes are currently reading Kindred by Octavia Butler-a novel about an African-American woman living in the 1970s who is pulled back in time to save her white, plantation-owning ancestor's life. It explores the reality and complexity of slavery as well as the lingering effects of its legacy in America. Additionally, students study excerpts from Isabel Wilkerson's The Warmth of other Suns, a nonfiction novel about the Great Migration and segregation. They will also be reading a series of poems by contemporary poets of color like Patrick Rosal, Ross Gay, Aracelis Girmay, Rita Dove, Terrance Hayes, Tim Seibels, Claude McKay, and others.
English III classes examine the impacts of British colonialism and imperialism in poems and literature. Some classes are currently watching Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's TED Talks: "The Danger of a Single Story" and "We Should All Be Feminists," then discussing them in context with Jamaica Kinkaid's "Girl," Allison Joseph's "On Being Told I Don't Speak Like a Black Person" in juxtaposition with Shaw's Pygmalion. Additionally, students read about the history of discrimination in the medical establishment in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. In February, students will study the content and rhetorical devices in Dr. MLK Jr.'s speeches through PBS lesson plans.
English IV Classes read Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, a classic African novel about African traditions and culture and its erasure through colonialism. Students also examine excerpts from author Maryse Condé and Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness to explore the genocidal history of Belgium's exploitation of the Congo and as a Eurocentric point of contrast to highlight how deeply-entrenched racism was in Europe. Then, we will read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Purple Hibiscus for a more contemporary picture of Africa that will allow students to draw on what we have already studied and see the lingering impacts of colonialism, as well as challenge the stereotypical depictions of the continent. Additionally, students in February will study Zora Near Hurston's seminal Harlem Renaissance text on being a Black woman living in Florida during the 1930s, Their Eyes Were Watching God, as well as Alan Paton's 1948 Cry, The Beloved Country, a work which examines the strains and friendships that develop during apartheid in S. Africa.