Many teachers think of Richard Wright as a great essayist or novelist, but few ever teach his poetry. Ta-nehsi Coates stumbled upon this poem as an 18 year old and in 2015, he used the title of Wright’s poem for the title his own memoir. The poem, which uses shifts in narrative point of view, gruesome imagery, and abundant personification, recalls the scene where a human being was burnt in front of a crowd. Also included in the packet are four short nonfiction pieces from The New York Times Room for Debate series. These articles debate whether police officers are using too much force, particularly against African-Americans.
The resource includes a link to an annotated video of the poem, links to resources about conducting Socratic Seminars, and links to The New York Times series Room for Debate on “Do Police Use Deadly Force Too Often?” The teaching packet contains a guide for conducting Socratic Seminars in a manner that allows for an organic fluid discussion, with a unique scoring rubric. Also in included is a quiz on the poem with an answer key.
Key words: AP English Language, AP English Literature, American Literature, argument, violence, poetry, sociology, economics, social justice, Richard Wright, non-fiction
CHANGES SEPTEMBER 2016: Added 2 more classroom lessons, a link to the TEDTALK “We Need to Talk About an Injustice” by Bryan Stevenson. Resource to teach a SIFT Poetry Analysis were added, a video on Richard Wright, a link to annotations for the poem from genius dot com, and an essay prompt and resources to help teach the essay.