Tag Archives: United States History

James Baldwin to Angela Davis

“If they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night.”

“Open Letter to My Sister, Angela Y. Davis” (1971)

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

Richard Wright on Inequality

“Goddamit, look! We live here and they live there. We black and they white. They got things and we ain’t. They do things and we can’t. It’s just like living in hell.”

Native Son, bk. 1 (1940)

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

Lorraine Hansberry

When I lived in The Bronx I would occasionally get off the 2 or the 5 train to at West Farms Square-East Tremont Avenue to look at the Manhattan skyline. Just below and to the east and south of that very high station, sits the Lorraine Hansberry School. In the past couple of years, some new high-rise apartment buildings have gone up there, so the view is now obscured. But the school remains, thank goodness.

Lorraine Hansberry has crossed my radar screen several times recently: she was the subject of a PBS American Masters series, and she is featured prominently in Raoul Peck’s superlative documentary, James Baldwin: I Am Not Your Negro. Lorraine Hansberry and James Baldwin were great friends, and her early death was a great tragedy for him, and for the theater.

Here, hot off the press, is a reading on playwright Lorraine Hansberry and its attendant 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.

Jack Johnson

(originally John Arthur) (1878-1946) U.S. heavyweight boxing champion, the first black to hold the title. Born in Galveston, Texas, his career was marked from the beginning by racial discrimination. He won the national heavyweight crown in 1908 by knocking out Tommy Burns and kept it until 1915, when he was knocked out in Havana by Jess Willard in 26 rounds. After he became champion, a cry for a ‘Great White Hope’ to defeat him produced numerous opponents. He was excoriated by the press for twice marrying white women. In 1912 he was convicted of violating the Mann Act for transporting his fiancée across state lines. He fled to Canada and then to Europe, continuing to fight as a fugitive before surrendering in 1920 to serve a one-year sentence. He died in a car crash. He won 80 of his 114 bouts.”

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

Cultural Literacy: Boston Massacre

One of the supreme and bitter ironies of the events leading up to the founding of this nation is the death, in the Boston Massacre, of Crispus Attucks. Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on the Boston Massacre which, even in its squib, makes sure that the first person to die for the cause of American liberty was a black man.

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.

Dr. King on America’s Defaulted Debt

“When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, the were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir…America has defaulted on this promissory note in so far as her citizens of color are concerned.”

Speech at Civil Rights March, Washington, D.C., 28 August 1963

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

Phillis Wheatley

Although I’d been aware of her since high school, I wasn’t aware of the indignities she endured as the first African-American writer to publish in North America. This reading on early African-American poet Phillis Wheatley (with its accompanying vocabulary building and comprehension worksheet) does a nice job of exposing that particular disgrace on the part of white Boston elites.

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.