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Many of my students were African-American and I wanted to show them a text that valued black lives for their very blackness.In other words, I did not want them to see narratives of black people as a deficit (as is frequent in mainstream media), but a narrative that described strengths stemming from blackness.The texts are diverse and include academic readings, novels, music, and film.
In (Twain), read by the juniors, Twain discusses the absurdity of the institution of slavery and a racial caste system that is based on the “one drop rule” through the character of Roxy, an enslaved woman who looks white.
The conflict of the novel comes from her switching her white-appearing son with the master’s son.
The course “Politicizing Beyoncé” was created by Kevin Allred in 2010 (
It is an interdisciplinary course that pairs texts on topics such as black feminism with Beyoncé’s music.
Utilizing media and music videos that relate to student lives is nothing new and is often cited as being of great benefit to students (Copeland & Goering; Latta; Rodesiler; Rubin) but in this article I will relate why this particular text is ripe with possibilities for the secondary English classroom.
Bringing pop culture and new media into the classroom can also be an easy way to engage students and bridge out of school literacies with in-school literacies.
This enthusiasm included college professors, as many black academics were sharing articles on Twitter and other social media accounts with the hashtag #Formation Syllabus, including texts on the Black Panthers, recommending books by Audre Lorde, and other works by and celebrating black people.
This continued after Beyoncé released the full visual album Candice Benbow used the hashtag #lemonadesyllabus to gather text suggestions from black women academics that related to topics on the album and created a document available for free download (
I replied that we were going to use the lyrics (Williams, Brown, Hogan, & Beyoncé) and music video (Beyoncé) for Beyoncé’s to learn about thesis statements.
Students were cheering, dancing and singing as we watched the video, and this engagement remained as I gave a more traditional Power Point-accompanied lecture on how to brainstorm on themes, create thematic statements, and write a thesis statement.