Hey! Black History Month 2019 begins today. I’m always excited for this month to roll around. In 16 years of teaching in inner-city schools, I have served students of predominantly (recent) African Descent. (I modify that locution with recent because as it turns out, we all–humans, I mean–started out in Africa. As the late, great Richard Pryor put it, “So Black people we the first people had thought. Right? We were the first to say, ‘Where the f**k am I? And how do you get to Detroit?’”)
Because I have, from childhood, been enamored of syncretic African cultural forms in this country–particularly jazz–the history of Black people in the United States has always been a deep interest of mine. As a matter of fact, I consider the seven years I lived in Harlem a post-graduate exercise. I really was thrilled to read about the locations of famous nightclubs, or the addresses of famous Harlem residents (Billie Holiday’s first apartment was on was on 138th Street, just off Lenox Avenue; A’Lelia Walker’s Dark Tower was on 136th Street in Sugar Hill–I could go on at length starting with 555 Edgecombe Avenue or The Dunbar Apartments–there are just so many of these august addresses in Harlem) and then stroll by to look at them.
Because David Blight, a historian at Yale, has recently published a new biography of him (you can read Ta-nehisi Coates’ review here), let’s start the month with this short reading on Frederick Douglass and its vocabulary building and comprehension worksheet.
If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.