African and African American Literature


Racial inequalities and injustices exist globally, unfortunately. While it has improved, it is important for all races to understand the bitterness that resides and where it stems from. In Black America, we can see the burdens thrusted upon the people in which this country was built off their backs. Baldwin discusses the racial tensions and problems that not only black citizens suffered as a whole, but also suffered consequentially with their own interpersonal relationships with each other in his “Notes of a Native Son”. Another understanding imperative for national–and global prosperity, really—is the tightly knitted values we can see in African literature that has likely passed to descendants in America. My class this week focused much on the importance of names that seemed to be placed upon the people in Africa. There are many reasons this is important, but also one that was not brought up much in class, I believe may be just the sense of placement and belonging that an identity can offer.

Text Box: James Baldwin, Author of “Notes of a Native Son”

James Baldwin, Author of “Notes of a Native Son”

To introduce the literature to high school students, it may be more intriguing to students with a simple question “What does your name mean and where did it come from?”. For example, going across the classroom and asking students to go home and asking their parents where their name came from and googling a translation of their name. As further interest delves into the literature, this is when hard hitting topics such as racial oppression and the history within can be brought to surface. Have students theorize on how racial tensions and oppression can hinder African Americans’ sense of belonging.

In the wonderful world of streaming, multiple documentaries have released in recent years that have also won awards, one that comes to mind is 13th. If allowed by administration and parents, I strongly recommend the Netflix documentary directed by Ava DuVernay to not just students, but anyone just to increase awareness of the institutionalized racism that is continuing today since before the 13th amendment and because of the 13th amendment as well, as counterintuitive as that sounds. For a layout of a lesson plan with this documentary, another person has a similar line of thinking as demonstrated here:

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