Native Son & Reconstruction/Civil Rights in America

American Studies—Cohen/Antonakos
Native Son & Reconstruction/Civil Rights in America
For this writing we would like you to reflect on some ideas that you found compelling. In other
words, find the places where you were intellectually and/or emotionally connected and examine
them. Here are some questions to help spark your memory of those moments:
When were you most engaged?
Where were you asking questions?
Where were you thinking about your life and
your experiences?
Where were you curious?
When were you most frustrated?
When were you most inspired?
When were you most hopeful?
When were you most hopeless?
When did you want to get off your own chair
and take action?
When did you want the story (or history) to
turn off and leave you alone?
What surprised you?
Whom do you admire?
With whom do you identify?
What are the conflicts that persist?
THIS WEEKEND: Your job is to spend some time thinking and writing about these moments.
1) Find a cozy spot and re-read your notebook from the end of Beloved to the present.
2) Consider any (a few, not just one) of these questions above, and write about these moments,
explaining in each instance why you responded the way you did.
3) Look over your responses. Identify what is emerging by writing new observations and
questions about American society or about yourself.
In the act of writing and thinking you will make some deeper connections, raise more questions and
hopefully come to an important realization or two.
You will have an opportunity to work alone or with one or two other people in exploring your ideas
or creating the whole project. Monday’s class period will provide time and direction for taking your
weekend’s work and exploring how you might express your realizations to the class.
If you are working with others, you will share the writing and thinking you did over the weekend.
All individuals or groups will consider what it is that they want to show to the class and how they
want to show it.
You may work with up to two other people as you make a creative presentation that
expresses your opinions, interpretations and/or ideas. This whole piece needs some unity, some
direction –This piece is saying something, revealing something, raising something. This piece is about
you, America and ideas raised in our texts and our notes and discussion.
Possibilities include (but are not limited to):
 Multimedia presentation
 Dance
 Song
 Video
 Skit
 Story or series of poems
 Annotated timeline
 Letter to an elected official, letter to the
 Story about a personal experience
 Link to current events
 Poster
 Illustration
 Debate
 Drawing/painting/sculpture
The presentation must include text from Native Son and references to at least two of the other
texts/people/events from this unit.
Wright: Native Son, “How Bigger was Born,” Ethics of Living Jim Crow, dual identity
Frederick Douglass, 13th, 14th, & 15th Amendment, Washington & DuBois, Plessy v. Ferguson
Videos: Reconstruction, Slavery & the Making of America
The Great Migration, documents on Chicago in the 1930s, communism
Harlem Renaissance (poems, jazz music, “Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain,” I’ll Make Me a World,
“Without Sanctuary,” “Strange Fruit”
Martin Luther King, “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” “I Have a Dream Speech,” Citizen King – Video,
Malcolm X: Video, Autobiography, check binder for other writings
James Baldwin, “My Dungeon Shook: Letter to his nephew”, “A Talk to Teachers” (early 1 st semester)
Peggy McIntosh, “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”
Videos:, “Desegregating the North Shore,” Citizen King, and from Eyes on the Prize these episodes:
“Emmett Till,” “Little Rock,” “The Sit-Ins (Nashville)”
Brown v. Board of Education
Deerfield Housing case
In addition, you may include any number of references to literature and history, going all the way
back to the beginning of first semester (remember American Ideology? Thoreau?). Look back over
your notebook, and check out the class website.
Your project will be evaluated, both by us and by your peers, in these four categories:
 Content: use/explanation of details
 Depth
from sources
 Preparation
 Clarity
 Creativity