Making the Wright Connection

An Online Community for the Study of Richard Wright

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.

My students learned about Wright through our reading and discussion of Black Boy.   They learned about the struggles that he faced as a young man growing up in the South, about institutionalized racism, about Jim Crow and the KKK, about poverty and discrimination, about assumptions made and disappointments faced.  But they learned most about the power of words to change lives, particularly Richard’s.  My students wrote about influences on his life and on their own; they composed found poetry made up of lines from Wright’s text and studied his haiku, using it as inspiration for their writing; they studied poets of his era and those who came after him who found inspiration in Wright; and they learned about the migration north, especially to Chicago, where some of Wright’s stomping grounds are just miles from our school, and where restrictive covenants shaped the city to where it remains today as one of the most racially segregated in the United States.  They grew to understand the rise and importance of jazz music as well as other literary, political, and cultural figures of Wright’s era.

My involvement with “Making the Wright Connection” has transformed my Wright paradigm. As a result, I have a greater depth of knowledge and insight about him as an individual and writer, and I am a much better teacher. I returned from Kansas with a suitcase full of books by and about Richard Wright, and a head full of new ideas of how to teach him. As most effective teachers tend to do, I continue to shape my curriculum to keep it relevant for my students. My time at KU strengthened my teaching, thinking, and writing, and my students are the prime beneficiaries.

David Fuder in the classroom

Student work on Nikki Giovanni

Student work on Ntozake Shange

Student work on Langston Hughes

Student work on Gwendolyn Brooks

Who is David?

David Fuder is a teacher at the Francis W. Parker School in Chicago, where he has taught eighth grade English for eight years. An educator who blends his passion for activism and awareness into his teaching, David centers much of his curriculum on the subject of identity while introducing students to novels that deal with issues of race, class, and gender to broaden students’ minds and challenge their thinking. He and another colleague founded and oversee Parker’s high school anti-genocide STAND chapter, which helps raise awareness about Darfur, and works with students to bring that message to the city of Chicago through protests, rallies, and planned events. Born in Michigan, he has been in Chicago since college. David is a coach, writer, husband, and father of two young girls, and enjoys reading, cycling, photography, travel, and good food and friends.


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