Discussion Leader’s Name______________________________________

School and Society

Reading and Writing Assignment

Blacks in the Antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction Periods

I.  Read a children’s biography (or one or two chapters from a young adult biography) devoted to one of the following African Americans from the antebellum, Civil War, and/or Reconstruction periods: Robert Smalls, Harriet Tubman, P. B. S. Pinchback, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver, Harriet Jacobs, Blanche K. Bruce, Charlotte Forten Grimké, Lewis Latimer, Biddy Mason, Nat Love, or Jan Matzelinger. (Both the University Marriott and the local city libraries have individual biographies and/or collections of short biographies that include these figures. The main downtown library has an especially large collection.) If you choose an illustrated book or a book for young readers, read the entire book; if it is a book for young adults, read at least one or two chapters (depending on the length of the chapters).

II.  Answer the following questions in enough detail to make clear some of the merits and limitations of the book you read. Be specific. (If you have a very legible hand, handwriting is fine; otherwise, please type or print your answers. You may attach this form to a separate sheet of typed comments.)

A. Who is the figure about whom you read? Why did you choose this person, and had you ever heard of him or her before?

B.  Give the title of the book, the author’s or authors’ name(s), the publisher, and the copyright date; if applicable, also give the name of the illustrator(s).

C.  What information does the biography present regarding the political, social, cultural, and/or racial context in which this person made his or her mark? How detailed, specific, interesting, and in-depth is that information?

D.  Do you have any way of knowing whether the background information given on racial issues is largely correct or not (in its specifics or in terms of the overall impression given to the reader)? If you do know enough about the period to comment, how does this book or chapter measure up? If you do not know enough to assess the accuracy of the background information, why do you think that the courses you have had in elementary or secondary school or college that might conceivably have addressed this material never did so?

E.  How does this specific biography contribute to your awareness of the issues facing African Americans in the last half of the nineteenth century?

F.  Does the book seem to have a particular point of view? If not, why do think not, and if so, what gives you that impression?

G.  How do the photographs, maps, and/or illustrations contribute to the meaning of the written text? Do they seem to work with or against the written text, in terms of conveying a sense of what the life of the subject of the biography was like? (For example, is the text tragic while the illustrations are happy-go-lucky?)

H.  What sense do you gain from the book or chapter as to how the main character is viewed in relation to African American culture?

I.  What sense do you gain from the book as to the kind or kinds of education from which the main character profited?

J.  Who seems to be the intended audience for this book or chapter, and what assumptions do you think that the author(s) and illustrator (if applicable) made about that audience? For example, what assumptions have been made about historical knowledge, the reader’s ability to recognize and think about racism, and his or her interest in particular kinds of biographical details?

K.  Do you agree with these assumptions about young readers? Why or why not?

Valid HTML 4.01 Transitional