Analy Fro Unit 1: Contemporary Language
Enslavement to Freedom, a
Productive Life-long Learner
Unit 1: Contemporary Language
African‐American pop culture has developed new norms in the expression of contemporary
Using the progression of educaOon in African‐American society from slavery through the
century, discuss how language has evolved or devolved. In what sense, if any, has the legacy of
influenced the ability of this generaOon of students to speak and write English? Using at least ten
arOcles/book sources, review the literature on African‐American language acquisiOon and the
idenOfied in those sources. CriOque the challenges from at least two perspecOves. Tape your
Oque of the works, ciOng major premises and evidence used to support major premises. Ask
in your learning community to assess your criOque. Redrah the criOque, making sure that your
syntax and ideas meet college‐level expectaOons. (Criteria for assessing your essay are
in Appendix 2.)
EducaOon, language, and popular culture share an inOmate relaOonship that informs all
class looks at the interacOon of these three social pillars in the context of African‐American
culture from the Ome of the great West African civilizaOons to the present. It addresses how
African descent fought to preserve their heritage (despite the experience of slavery) and how this
Oon effort accommodated a new culture as they became Americans.
This unit will engage in a mulO‐disciplinary examina
Oon of what consOtutes knowledge, especially
in terms of language acquisiOon and
popular culture in the African‐American community.
Through primary documents, students
tackle the myth that African Americans, due to
the harshness of slavery, did not have the ability
to engage the English language at a high
level. Instead, black intellectuals have influenced
all of American history in important
ways—a topic further explored through other
in‐class assignments. Yet, some care should be
taken to indicate that the African‐American
elite did not hold a monopoly over language,
educaOon, and knowledge. Instead, popular
culture shows that people could use language on their own terms and could mold it to suit their
The final class exercises lead to an exploraOon of how people have uOlized language to
envision and empower themselves and how the acquisiOon of a “mother tongue” informs
From Africa to America
From Emancipation to the Present
Timeline of Language Development
Contemporary Influences on African-
From Africa to America
Olaudah Equiano, The Interes0ng Narra0ve of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Chapter 2
Frederick Douglass, What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?
In‐class Wri5ng: Write in your reflecOon journal on the “Overarching QuesOon.” Aher class,
your responses and post it to the discussion forum.
In‐class Ac5vity: Break into three groups, each represenOng one of the three following people:
Banneker, Phyllis Wheatley, and Thomas Jefferson, using the brief bio and wriOng sample of
person, debate the “Overarching QuesOon” from each perspecOve. Each group will have
10 minutes to make its case.
Objec5ve: This secOon engages students in a discussion about educaOon and language,
the context of African‐American history from the Ome of the great West African civilizaOons
the experience of enslavement, the Middle Passage, and life in the Americas. It should not just be
debate about how language evolves or devolves but whether it is even perOnent to ask if
evolves or devolves. Students should quesOon what consOtutes knowledge. They should also
how Africans fought to preserve their heritage through the experience of slavery and
new culture as they became Americans. The readings highlight these issues. The Equiano piece
Ocular looks at the experience of Africans from the displacement of capOvity and the terror of
Passage to the inhumanity of enslavement. SOll, Equiano clearly expanded his capacity for
Similarly, Frederick Douglass was born into slavery and became one of the most important
intellectuals of the 19th Century. Douglass emphasizes the contradicOon embedded in an
that celebrated its independence but enslaved millions of people. Banneker, Wheatley, and
debated this very quesOon in the 18th Century.
An ardent aboliOonist, Wheatley represented the Enlightenment philosophy which
believes that environment plays a major role in a person’s life. Leaders of the American
RevoluOon debated whether black people were inherently inferior to white people
or whether supposed black inferiority was due to enslavement. Some slaveholders
like Thomas Jefferson, who held racist assumpOons, dismissed Wheatley altogether
even as he carried on a long‐term affair with one of his slaves, but others
considered Wheatley an example of what people of African descent could achieve if
freed from oppression.
Like Wheatley, Banneker championed human equality and pointed to the ideals of
the American RevoluOon. In 1791, he sent Jefferson, who was then the U.S. Secretary of State, a
of his almanac to refute his claim of black inferiority. NoOng Jefferson’s words in the
DeclaraOon of Independence,
Banneker took the man to task over slavery. Referring to the DeclaraOon, Banneker
idenOty. In the end, students should come away with an appreciaOon for the complex
educaOon, language, knowledge, popular culture, and power.
wrote, “You were then impressed with proper ideas of the great valuaOon of liberty, and the free
of those blessings, to which you were enOtled by nature; but, Sir, how piOable is it to reflect,
that although you were so fully convinced of the benevolence of the Father of Mankind, and of
equal and imparOal distribuOon of these rights and privileges…that you should at the same Ome
his mercies, in detaining by fraud and violence so numerous a part of my brethren, under
capOvity and cruel oppression.” He did not mince
words, and Jefferson responded. Both Banneker’s leIer
and Jefferson’s response are available online for students
From Emancipa?on to the Present
Booker T. Washington, Speech before the Atlanta CoFon States and Interna0onal Exposi0on
W.E.B. DuBois, Of Booker T. Washington and Others
W.E.B. DuBois, The Talented Tenth
Ida B. Wells‐BarneI, Southern Horrors: Lynching in All Its
In‐class Wri5ng: Begin class with a 15‐minute reflecOon
journal on the “Overarching QuesOon.” Aher class, students
should amend their responses and post them to
WebCT in a discussion forum.
In‐class Ac5vity: Break into four groups, each represenOng
one of the following arOsts from the Harlem Renaissance: Claude McKay, Countée Cullen,
Hughes, and Zora Neale Hurston. Provide each group with a brief bio and wriOng sample of
and debate the “Overarching QuesOon” from each perspecOve. Each group will have
10 minutes to make its case.
Objec5ve: This class looks at the two most powerful black intellectuals at the turn of the 20th
Washington and DuBois, who had disOnct views on the role of educaOon for African Americans
both displayed a mastery of language. Wells‐BarneI breaks up the myth of the
binary as the only two voices of import. She disagreed with both men, thinking that Washington
too accomodaOonist and DuBois eliOst. Her efforts to invesOgate lynchings and dispel the
surrounded white vigilanOsm gave her a voice that capitalized on both her educaOon and
Their debate spilled into the Harlem Renaissance, for which DuBois was one of the earliest and
important patrons. The “In‐Class AcOvity” gives students the opportunity to further engage the
QuesOon” from the perspecOve of these arOsts. They should also consider the perOnence of
the quesOon in light of 21st Century African‐American arOsts.
Check it out - Look on-line
Read Phyllis Wheatley’s
Part I ‐ Personal Iden?ty:
Implicit AssociaOon Test
assess your racial idenOty.
The professor will lead the class in taking the Implicit AssociaOon Test, a subconscious test
designed to find out
how you have been socialized. Aher taking this test, discuss the agents of socializaOon (e.g.,
church, parents/family…). How does one acquire negaOve or posiOve astudes toward one group
Discuss the various forms of racism, ranging
from: Old‐Fashioned Racism (the noOon that
blacks are biologically inferior to whites); The
New Racism (subtle, aversive…): the noOon
that blacks do not subscribe to the protestant
work ethics of hard work and individualism;
and Internalized Racism‐the internalizaOon of
negaOve racial astudes/stereotypes projected
on blacks by the dominant culture.
Question: Has the legacy
of racism influenced the
ability of this generation of
students to speak and
Go to the website and watch
the videos Birth of a Nation
and contemporary clips from
stereotypes depicted in
each video, then BLOG IT
OUT on the class website.
Part II ‐ Personal Iden?ty:
What language do you speak at home with family and friends?
iii) Ebonics, Black English
Language is a cultural tool of learning and communicaOon. Language is the most important
element of culture,
if you take away language, the culture dies.
Your first language, noted here as L1, is your Mother Tongue. It is so called because it is the
language of communica
Oon between a baby and it’s mother. The mother’s language is the first means of communicaOon
mother and child. In a diverse marriage situaOon where both parents come from different
backgrounds, the tendency is for the children to speak their mother’s language or mother tongue.
Your second language, L2, is the formal language you learn at school as the official language of
communicaOon in learning, commerce and industry. The formal language in America is English
not the official language).
Exercise 2: Review the lyrics to your favorite song and translate it from L1 to L2 or from L2 to
L1, depending on
Language is power. Language is predicated on rulership. CiOzens speak the ruler’s language in
Oon as language follows the flag.
Your language use defines you. It exposes your status in society, tells your degree of literacy,
your knowledge of
words and your competence in correct usage.
Correctness and competence in English are your gateway to acquiring knowledge in your various
Lectures are delivered in formal English and you need language competence to write class essays
Oons and to communicate effecOvely in oral presentaOons and discussions, naOonally and
Exercise 3 :
Study the diagram below; analyze and discuss your impression.
How do we develop competence in Formal
What problems do we encounter in “codeswitching”
from L1 to L2, or from conversa‐
Oonal or colloquial English to formal English?
Translate the following passages from L1 to L2
Zora Neale Hurston – Every Tongue Got to Confess, p. 9 (Exercise in class – L1)
God done preIy good when He made man, but He could have made us a lot more convenient. For
we only got eyes in de front uh our heads – e need some in de back, too, so nuthin’ can’t slip
upon us. Nuther thing: it would be handy, too, ef we had one right on de end uv our dog finger
finger). Den we could jest point dat eye any which way. Nuther thing: our mouths oughter be on
our heads “stead uh right in front. Then, when I’m late tuh work I kin just throw my breakfast in
an’ put my hat on my head, an’ eat my breakfast as I go on tuh work. Now, ain’t dat reasonable,
Besides, mouths ain’t so preIy nohow ‐ George Brown.
Richard Wright ‐ Black Boy, pp. 23 ‐24 ( Appendix – as an example of formal wriOng in English
African American which brings up the noOon of racial idenOty)
I soon made myself a nuisance by asking far too many quesOons of everybody. Every happening
neighborhood, no maIer how trivial, became my business. It was in this manner that I first
upon the relaOons between whites and blacks, and what I learned frightened me. Though I had
known that there were people called “white” people, it had never meant anything to me
had seen white men and women upon the streets a thousand Omes, but they had never looked
“white”. To me they were merely people like other people, yet somehow strangely different
I had never come in close touch with any of them. For the most I never thought of them; they
simply existed somewhere in the background of the city as a whole. It might have been that my
in learning to sense white people as “white” people came from the fact that many of my relaOves
were “white” – looking people. My grandmother, who was white as any “white” person, had
looked “white” to me. And when word circulated among the black people of the neighborhood
“black” boy had been severely beaten by a “white” man, I felt that the “white” man had had a
beat the “black” boy, for I naively assumed that the “white” man must have been the “black”
And did not all fathers, like my father, have the right to beat their children? A paternal right was
the only right, to my understanding, that a man had to beat a child. But when my mother told me
the “white” man was not the father of the “black” boy, was no kin to him at all, I was puzzled.
“Then why did the ‘white’ man whip the ‘black’ boy?’ I asked my mother.
“The ‘white’ man did not whip the ‘black’ boy,” my mother told me. “He beat the ‘black’ boy.”
“You’re too young to understand.”
“I’m not going to let anybody beat me,” I said stoutly.
“Then stop running wild in the streets,” my mother said
Exercise 4: WORDS
Let us trace the history of labels used to describe blacks. For each we shall state what it means to
From Nigger to African American, you are making a statement and re‐defining yourself in a
posiOve and affirma
Ove way. How do you define yourself and why? Define yourself in the context of American