Tag Archives: black history

The Weekly Text, February 19, 2020, Black History Month 2021 Week IV: A Reading and Comprehension Worksheet on George Washington Carver

This week’s Text, in this blog’s ongoing observance of Black History Month 2021, is this reading on George Washington Carver along with its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. Today is the final Friday of Black History Month for this year; on Monday, March 1, this blog turns the corner to Women’s History Month.

Professor Carver is a staple of Black History, and usually observations of him tend to emphasize his interest in the peanut and its infinite varieties. While I don’t want to minimize those accomplishments–I for one would be very interested in knowing what Professor Carver’s recipes have added to the gross domestic product of the United States since their inception–I think it’s important to remember that George Washington Carver was a sophisticated agronomist who understood the need to rotate crops in southern fields so that cotton wouldn’t exhaust the topsoil. Alone, this area of his scholarly career makes Professor Carver an early environmentalist.

And all of this he accomplished while on the faculty of Tuskegee University in Alabama, in the heart of the Jim Crow South. If we White Americans are going to he honest with ourselves, we must stipulate that being a smart Black man in Alabama in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries could be dangerous indeed. For Americans of African descent, subservience and deference were the orders of the day in the Jim Crow South. His commitment to educating poor farmers also would have put him in the crosshairs of, say, the Ku Klux Klan.

So let’s all tip our hats to this great man.

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.

Dick Gregory on the Moral and Intellectual Certainty of the White Race

“You gotta say this for the white race—its self-confidence knows no bounds. Who else could go to a small island in the South Pacific where there’s no poverty, no crime, no unemployment, no war, and no worry—and call it a ‘primitive society.’”

Dick Gregory, From the Back of the Bus (1962)

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

Cultural Literacy: Black Panthers

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on the Black Panthers. Because the authors of The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, from which, like all the books I use to inform instructional material, I copy verbatim, use the term “Black Panthers,” I have preserved their text.

However, I have always thought of the Panthers, and therefore referred to them as the Black Panther Party, which is how they refer to themselves, and which represents them as the agents of history I would argue they have been in my lifetime.

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.

Octavia Butler

“Octavia Butler: (1947-2006) American novelist and short-story writer. Butler, who is the first black woman to achieve recognition for writing science fiction, has won the top honors in her field, the Hugo and Nebula awards. She is best known as the author of the Patternist series (Patternmaster, 1976; Mind of My Mind, 1977; Survivor, 1978; Wild Seed, 1980; Clay’s Ark, 1984), based on a society whose inhabitants have evolved telepathic powers. The most successful of her other novels is Kindred (1979), the tale of Dana Franklin, who is mysteriously transported from her 1975 Los Angeles home across time and space to emerge in 1830s Maryland as a free black woman in a slave state. Other works include Dawn (1987), Adulthood Rites (1988), and Imago (1989), the Xenogenesis trilogy, and Parable of the Sower (1993).”

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

Cultural Literacy: W.E.B. Du Bois

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on W.E.B. Du Bois. He is a world-historical figure about whom, I confess, I know less than I should.

Fortunately, I found my way to the rich public programming at Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, where I have been attending particularly rich and edifying webinars on Monday afternoons. These are open to the public; if you’re on Twitter, simply follow the Beinecke, which regularly tweets about upcoming events. Otherwise, searching “Mondays at Beinecke” (or clicking on that hyperlink) will take you to a calendar of events at the Library.

In any case, the Beinecke possesses some of W.E.B. Du Bois’s papers, which came to the Library by way of one of the major collections at the library, the James Weldon Johnson and Grace Nail Johnson Papers, which is a treasure trove of materials related to Black History in the United States in the twentieth century.

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.

Hank Aaron

“Aaron, Hank: (orig. Henry Louis) (1934-2021) U.S. baseball player. Born in Mobile, Alabama, he played briefly in the Negro and minor leagues before joining the Milwaukee Braves in 1954. He would play outfield most of his career. By the time the Braves moved to Atlanta in 1965, he had hit 398 career home runs; in 1974 he hit his 715th, breaking Babe Ruth’s record. He played his final two seasons (1975-76) with the Milwaukee Brewers. His records for career home runs (755), extra-base hits (1,477), and runs batted in (2,297) remain unbroken, and only Ty Cobb and Pete Rose exceeded him in career hits (3,771). He is renowned as one of the greatest hitters of all time.”

Excerpted/Adapted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.

Cultural Literacy: Muhammad Ali

Here is Cultural Literacy worksheet on Muhammad Ali. He was the greatest, you know? This is a full-page worksheet that can be used as independent practice.

Muhammad Ali really requires (or I hope he doesn’t) much explanation or amplification. He was ubiquitous in the media in my childhood, meeting with The Beatles and appearing in a series of photographs with them, and writing a poem with Marianne Moore in addition to his public and principled refusal to fight in the Vietnam War (even as a little kid, this thrilled me). So when an actor friend argued that Ali was one of the most exposed figures in the history of media, I had to agree. My friend’s point, though, was this: it took real courage for Canadian actor Eli Goree to take on the role of Ali; how does one portray such a profound, well-known, and ultimately sui generis personality? If you want to see, take a look at Regina King’s great new film, One Night in Miami on Amazon.

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.

Term of Art: Afroasiatic Languages

“Afroasiatic languages formerly Hamito-Semitic languages: Superfamily of about 250 languages presently spoken by and estimated 250-300 million people ethnically and physically diverse people in North Africa and parts of sub-Saharan Africa and in southwest Asia. The major branches of Afroasiatic are Semitic, Berber, Egyptian, Cushitic and Chadic. Berber is a group of closely related languages spoken by perhaps 15 million people in enclaves scattered across North Africa from Morocco to northwest Egypt and in parts of the western Sahara. Cushitic is a family of about 30 languages spoken by more than 30 million people in northeast Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti, Kenya, and a few areas of northeast Tanzania. Omotic, formerly classified as part of Cushitic, is a cluster of perhaps more than 30 languages spoken by 2-3 million people, most of whom live near the Omo River in southwest Ethiopia. Chadic comprises about 140 languages, most poorly known to linguists, spoken in northern Nigeria, southern Niger, southern Chad, and northern Cameroon; except for Hausa, probably no individual Chadic language has more than half a million speakers.”

Excerpted/Adapted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.

Cultural Literacy: Burundi

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on the Central African nation of Burundi. This is another African nation that fell victim to the depredations of colonialism, in its case Germany and then Belgium. Like its neighbor, Rwanda, Burundi’s principal ethnic groups are the Hutus and the Tutsis; also, as in Rwanda, the Tutsis have attacked the Hutus and perpetrated a genocide–known as the Ikiza–against them. And, in 1993, one year before the genocide in Rwanda, there was civil conflict following an attempted coup in Burundi that resulted in the deaths of 25,000 Tutsis.

In other words, this worksheet, which is a full page and as such useful for independent practice, opens the door to an exploration of European colonialism and its legacy in colonized nations.

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.

African Music

“African music: Music of sub-Saharan Africa. Though a vast geographical area with diverse cultures, Africa’s music has a number of unifying traits. Its traditional music, including its ‘art music,’ is orally transmitted; thus, pieces do not exist as finished works, but are conceived of as recreated differently with each performance. Another general characteristic is the prevalence of ‘call and response.’ Aside from its spiritual and celebratory and dance-accompanying roles, African music has a distinctly political role; the griot sings the tribe’s history and creates songs of praise for the leader, or mocking songs when community feeling is running against the leader. The association of words with music extends to the existence of words to be thought while performing purely instrumental pieces. Being largely improvisational, African music employs only limited counterpoint (including roundlike imitation that may be an outgrowth of overlapping calls and responses), though melodies are often accompanied in parallel intervals, creating a chordal texture, and truly polyphonic music is played on the mbira, where the melodies performed by the two hands are conceived as separate. Rhythm is highly developed in Africa. Whereas Westerners tend to perceive simultaneous patterns as sharing a common meter, Africans think of such patterns as cycles with different starting points. Outside influences have played a role in African music, most importantly Islam. In recent times, compatible elements of Western music have mixed with indigenous elements, though in popular music these Western influences more likely arrived via Arabic and Indian examples. The music of North Africa represents a separate tradition.”

Excerpted/Adapted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.