Tag Archives: black history

Bob Moses: A Tribute to a Brilliant Civil Rights Activist and Educator, and His Message to Us

Diane Ravitch's blog

Bob Moses died on July 25 at the age of 86. He was noted for his intellect and courage. He was a leader of SNCC (the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), leading a voter registration drive in Mississippi at a time when violence against Black civil rights activists were at risk of being murdered, and no jury would convict their killers. In 1964, he led the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which tried unsuccessfully to replace the all-white Democratic delegation to the Democratic National Convention. In 1982, he founded the Algebra Project, to teach algebra to underprepared Black youth. He received multiple honors for his work. He graduated from the elite Stuyvesant High School in New York City, Hamilton College (where he majored in philosophy and French), and earned a master’s degree at Harvard in philosophy.

One of his friends and admirers forwarded the following story:

It might be of interest…

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J. Edgar Hoover

Here is a reading on J. Edgar Hoover along with its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. From the Intellectual Devotional series, this is a good general introduction to Hoover’s biography.

Any “good” biography of J. Edgar Hoover must by definition include his subversion of democracy, via COINTELPRO, during his reign as FBI Director. Hoover was a nasty piece of work, and he’s just the kind of villain that students find fascinating; he’s also a good figure with which to begin a critical examination of United States history in the twentieth century, including the Civil Rights Movement and the anti-Vietnam War upheavals. It’s an established fact that COINTELPRO monitored Malcolm X closely; his daughters, earlier this year, released a letter from the late New York City Police officer Raymond Wood in which Detective Wood confessed to participating with the FBI in the conspiracy to murder Malcolm. Netflix has done an admirable job of exposing this with the excellent documentary series Who Killed Malcolm X? I found it riveting.

In other words, these two documents are a gateway to some juicy, engaging stuff. I can already think of two students of mine who would have engaged deeply in a unit around these circumstances and events.

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.

Mellifluous (adj)

Here is a context clues worksheet on the adjective mellifluous. It means “having a smooth rich flow <a mellifluous voice> and “filled with something (as honey) that sweetens.”

It’s not a word used with any real frequency in English. But when you need it–as when it’s time to express one’s feelings about, say, Nina Simone’s voice–well, nothing else will quite do, you know?

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.

Contraband (n)

Here is a context clues worksheet on the noun contraband. You probably know that this solid word of Latin origin means, both as a noun and an adjective (it doesn’t morph as an adjective, but stays in its noun form, contraband), “illegal or prohibited traffic in goods : SMUGGLING” and “goods or merchandise whose importation, exportation, or possession is forbidden; also : smuggled goods.”

What you may not know, and what may surprise you, is that even in the latest edition of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (the lexicon of choice at Mark’s Text Terminal), contraband continues to carry the meaning “a slave who during the American Civil War escaped to or was brought within the Union lines.” In other words, this definition provides a lucid (and, arguably, lurid) glance into the mentality that reduced human beings with darker skin, but with human consciousness and agency nonetheless, to commodities. As such, this otherwise modest definition opens the door for a critical look at slavery and white supremacy in the United States.

What is an essential question here? Well, I might start with “How and why did people become ‘goods’ in the American mind?” But there are all kinds of those questions in this definition.

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.

Common Errors in English Usage: Utilize (vt), Use (vi/vt)

Here is a worksheet on using the verbs utilize and use. Utilize is used only transitively, so don’t forget your direct object. Use is also transitive, but has a two intransitive uses. The first is a very common locution in the English language: we call upon the verb use in the past tense, i.e. used, which we join with the preposition to so that we can “indicate a former fact or state,” as in “We used to go out more often” and “He didn’t use to smoke.” The second intransitive purpose for use is “to take illicit drugs regularly.” (Maybe you won’t want to point that out, however.)

Put another way, the first sense of the intransitive exercise of use can best be demonstrated by the title of the blues standard first recorded by Eddie Jones, aka Guitar Slim, “The Things That I Used to Do.” Did you know that the young Ray Charles produced and arranged the recording session that produced this great song? Neither did I until I sat down and wrote this post. For the record, (so to speak), the song was recorded at Cosimo Matassa’s J&M Recording Studio on Rampart Street in New Orleans. It was issued by the legendary Los Angeles R&B record label Specialty on October 16, 1953.

What we’re really talking about when the subjects of Cosimo Matassa, Ray Charles, Guitar Slim and Specialty Records arise are the beginnings of rock and roll. But that is another story.

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.

The Weekly Text, April 30, 2021: A Lesson Plan on the Relative Pronouns

This week’s Text is a lesson plan on the relative pronoun. I open this lesson with this Cultural Literacy worksheet on limericks; in the event that you extend the lesson into a second day, here is an Everyday Edit worksheet on Thurgood Marshall, the late civil rights jurist and Supreme Court Justice. (Incidentally, if your students respond favorably to that Everyday Edit–mine generally did–you will find that the good people at Education World give away a yearlong supply of them.) This scaffolded worksheet on relative pronouns is the principal work of this lesson. Finally, here is the teacher’s copy of the worksheet to ease delivering this lesson.

The relative pronouns in common use are who, whom, whose, what, which, that, and the –ever forms: whoever, whatever, whichever, and whomever, and they are what this lesson addresses. So, if you want your students to develop an understanding of using these words, I hope these documents abet that cause.

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.

Shirley Chisholm on Handicaps

“Of my two ‘handicaps,’ being female put many more obstacles in my path than being black.”

Shirley Chisholm, Unbought and Unbossed introduction (1970)

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

Cultural Literacy: Mary McLeod Bethune

On the first day of Women’s History Month 2021, here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on Mary McLeod Bethune.

While I would like to think Ms. Bethune requires no introduction, it seems safe to doubt that is the case. This important American heroine was an early and unequivocal champion of gender and racial equality, as well as an educator. In 1904, she started the Daytona Literary and Industrial School for Negro Girls. By 1931, her school had grown to such an extent that it became Bethune-Cookman University, now one of the preeminent Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the United States.

In other words, Mary McLeod Bethune is a world-historical figure. All of this is another way of saying this: to those southern cities taking down statues of white men to fought for (Confederate generals and political leaders), argued for (Supreme Court Justice Roger Taney) or otherwise abetted the practice of slavery in the United States, a nice bronze casting of Mary McLeod Bethune would make an appropriate, indeed just, replacement for any of those vacant plinths. You know?

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.

A Black History Month 2021 Coda: C.L.R. James on Rich and Poor

“The patience and forbearance of the poor are among the strongest bulwarks of the rich.”

C.L.R. JamesThe Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution. New York: Vintage 1989.

Frederick Douglass on What Is Necessary for Progress in the United States

“It is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake, The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.”

Frederick Douglass, Speech, Rochester, New York, 5 July 1852

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