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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   

15. Poetry of Liberation

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•  Using the Video
•  Authors
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•  Activities
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Activities: Author Activities

Audre Lorde - Teaching Tips

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  • Read within the context of the Black Arts movement, the political undertones of Lorde's poetry are clearly visible. The message "Black Is Beautiful," one of the hallmarks of the movement, was a radical call for the black community to nurture itself and to recognize its own self-worth. Using the archive, study the visual images that reflect the idea that "Black Is Beautiful." Alternatively, instructors could show the class representations of black Americans from the early twentieth century. Examples might include Aunt Jemima, Bojangles, minstrel shows, Uncle Ben, and the "lawn jockey." In small groups, students should consider each image, identify the stereotype the image is based on, and explain how and why a poet like Lorde chose to counter such derogatory stereotypes with her work. Is it easy for students to recognize the original stereotypes black writers were trying to challenge? If so, what does that suggest? If not, what might that suggest? Then have your students read "Coal." How does looking at the images in the archive change the way they read this poem? What new elements do they notice in the text?

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