Making the Wright Connection

An Online Community for the Study of Richard Wright

Teacher Matt Presser Helps Students Make (Wright) Connections

Posted on March 1, 2011 | No Comments

Matt Presser, Summer 2010 Wright Connection Institute participant, on how he and his students make connections:

Matt PresserIn Black Boy, Richard Wright describes how an early experience with a book by H.L. Mencken makes him “look of the world different.” Wright’s experience is what I have in mind when I present a work of literature to my students. But how does one choose just one piece from the canon when my time with students lasts just 180 short days?

To broaden my students’ vision of literature, I invited them to a read-in I organized at a local branch of the library recently. Students connected with community members, who ranged in age from 9 to 74, and selected from a variety of important historical works to read aloud. At the table of readings, Richard Wright sat next to Phyllis Wheatley, who sat next to W.E.B. DuBois and Jay-Z. Connecting students to these writers — as well as to the threads of their history and the wider community — propelled forward my effort to involve students in making valuable connections like those I made this summer.

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Teaching the Works of Richard Wright in his Native State

Posted on March 1, 2011 | No Comments

Shelia Bonner, Language Arts teacher at Ridgeland High School in Mississipi, has the following to say about how she is teaching Wright:

Shelia Bonner“The Making the Wright Connection Institute has served to be quite valuable to my classroom activities. I have used the works of Richard Wright in several courses. Because many of my students have never read anything by Richard Wright, my goal is to help students connect to the writings of a native son of Mississippi. I have assigned students to read “A Certain Place: Mississippi a Climate for Genius,” the first chapter of Margaret Walker Alexander’s Daemonic Genius: A Portrait of the Man, A Critical Look at His Work. Students then write a response to a prompt explaining how Mississippi is creating a genius within them. During the 2010 fall semester, I used Wright’s “The Long Black Song” in my Composition II class. I chose this short story because it stirred quite a spirited discussion at KU. I felt that it would also stir as much discussion in the classroom setting; students were assigned to first read Wright’s short story. As a class we also watched the film The Long Black Song. In turn, students wrote a Justify an Evaluation Essay. Students were asked to respond to the following writing prompt:

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North-South Wright Connection

Posted on February 25, 2011 | No Comments

As a result of their work together this summer, Shelia Bonner, Bob Darragh, Kristine Fields, Emily Robbins and Matt Presser have established a collaborative project to enhance their teaching of Wright’s work. They describe their project in this way: “Our project aims to bring together students of different backgrounds for a diverse discussion of important short stories. Our collaboration centers on a particular work by the author Richard Wright and pairs it with more modern texts. It also invites a dialogue between students — ranging from middle schoolers to community college students from the North and South.”

Click here for more information on the project.

Shelia Bonner

Bob Darragh

Kristine Fields

Emily Robbins

Matt Presser

Chicago 8th Graders Study Black Boy

Posted on February 18, 2011 | No Comments

David Fuder, an 8th grade English teacher at Frances W. Parker School in Chicago and Summer 2010 Wright Connection Institute participant teaches Black Boy.

I have taught Richard Wright’s Black Boy for a number of years and have enjoyed beginning my course with his autobiography because it sets a good tone from the start – it’s a challenging read that signals to my students that they are in for a year of big ideas and sophisticated literature.   After spending two weeks in Lawrence last summer at KU’s “Making the Wright Connection,” I returned to Chicago feeling a bit like my students: challenged to think beyond my own understanding of Wright and eager to implement new ideas, strategies and greater depth into my teaching.  Wright would never be taught the same in my class.

I prefaced our reading of Black Boy with a short story from Eight Men, “Big Boy Leaves Home.”  I gave my students no introduction to Wright but asked them to read the short story and return ready to discuss it.  They were stirred up, as most had never read such a brutal account of terror.  All were curious to know more about this Richard Wright fellow, and so we began from there.

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Tom Niermann’s Course on Richard Wright

Posted on February 11, 2011 | No Comments

“This past January I taught an inter-term course using Black Boy as the primary text. The subject of the course was African American History in Kansas City. Although Wright never spent any time in KC his experience migrating from the south to urban areas in the north mirrored many of the experiences of blacks in Kansas City. While reading the book I had students make comparisons between the text and what we studied about Kansas City up to World War II. For my students (most of whom were white) the class offered them a picture of Kansas City and American history that they had never had before. In addition to reading Black Boy I had the students research the images from the Farm Security Adminstration archive that has been digitized and posted online by the Library of Congress. I used one of the ideas shared at our summer session and had the students match photos from the FSA with passages from Black Boy. Students then altered the images using Photoshop to emphasize particulary points. I’ve attached some of the students projects. Coming up next week in my survey class of American history, I’m assigning a short story from Wright’s Uncle Tom’s Children when we discuss the Great Depression. I’m looking forward to it.”

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