Monthly Archives: January 2020

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: A volume of memoirs (1970) by the African-American writer, singer, and actress Maya Angelou (1928-2014). Angelou borrowed her title—a metaphor for the African-American experience—from the US writer Paul Lawrence Dunbar (1872-1906):

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,

When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore—

When he beats his bars and he would be free;

It is not a carol of joy or glee,

But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,

But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings—

I know why the caged bird sings!

Paul Lawrence Dunbar: ‘Sympathy,’ in The Complete Poems (1895)

Dunbar may have been inspired by an earlier line:

When caged birds sing, when indeed they cry.

John Webster: The White Devil (1612), V.iv

Excerpted from: Crofton, Ian, ed. Brewer’s Curious Titles. London: Cassell, 2002.

Cultural Literacy: James Weldon Johnson

Allow me to close out this Friday afternoon, and a difficult week, with this Cultural Literacy worksheet on James Weldon Johnson. He was a highly influential figure in the Harlem Renaissance, and it is nearly impossible to underestimate his influence on that efflorescence of culture in the United States.

If you find typos in this document, 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.

Paul Laurence Dunbar

[The beautiful Dunbar Apartments in Harlem are named for Paul Laurence Dunbar. Let me mention editorially that I am mildly uncomfortable with this entry’s association of Dunbar with Thomas Nelson Page. Dunbar, in my own view, was sui generis as a poet. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia has a tendency–especially in older entries like this one–to discount the originality of African-American writers.]

“Paul Laurence Dunbar: (1872-1906) American poet. Dunbar is noted for his highly skilled use of black themes and dialect. Writing at a time when literary regionalism was in vogue, he was undoubtedly influenced by Thomas Nelson Page. Dunbar was the son of a slave, but became the most famous African-American poet of his time. He exercised a great influence on later writers. Lyrics of Lowly Life (1896) is his most famous collection. It was followed by Lyrics of the Hearthside (1899), Lyrics of Love and Laughter (1903), and Lyrics of Sunshine and Shadow. He also wrote novels, including The Uncalled (1898) and The Sport of the Gods (1902).”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

Everyday Edit: Hank Aaron

Here is an Everyday Edit worksheet on Hank Aaron. If you and your students like this worksheet, the generous proprietors of Education World, who give away a year’s supply of them at their website.

If you find typos on this worksheet, that’s the point of the work. Ask students to proofread for errors, and then repair them.

New Yorkers, It’s Time to Cashier Richard Carranza

As I say every time I post something like this, Mark’s Text Terminal is not a political or policy blog.

That said, by any standard I recognize, it is long past time for New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza to find something else–anything else–to do. As an erstwhile colleague of mine commented recently, Carranza is “a lightweight.”

In the 16 years I taught in New York, we had one condescending, disrespectful chancellor after another–including the amazingly ill-fated–by her own dismal performance–Cathie Black.

So Carranza is not sui generis. That said, as this web page shows, Carranza’s  incompetence is well-documented and his failures many. The irony of this, of course, is that like so many people who occupy offices at his level in public education, he will all but certainly fail up when leaving New York.

Whatever happens, good riddance….

Muhammad Ali on Maintaining His Schedule

“Not only do I knock ‘em out, I pick the round.”

Muhammad Ali

Quoted in N.Y. Times, 9 December 1962

Excerpted from: Schapiro, Fred, ed. The Yale Book of Quotations. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.

Independent Practice: Songhai Empire

OK, folks tomorrow begins Black History Month 2020. Circumstances impel me, as they do every February, to editorialize briefly in saying that if Americans are honest with themselves about the history of the United States, then every month is Black History Month. That said, I am distinctly uncomfortable second-guessing the founders of Black History Month, particularly Dr. Carter G. Woodson.

So, let’s start the month off with this independent practice worksheet on the Songhai Empire.

If you find typos in this document, 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.