Making the Wright Connection

An Online Community for the Study of Richard Wright

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:

Hollywood takes liberties with movies inspired by literary works that sometimes takes away from the original meaning of the text. Reread Wright’s “The Long Black Song.” In an essay of at least 2 ½ pages, argue what is lost and/or what is gained in Hollywood’s depiction of Wright’s “The Long Black Song?” Support your answer by making specific reference to the text.

Wright is a part of my Composition I course as well. I teach a thematic unit on “Coming of Age.” The short stories that I use are set in Mississippi. I use Richard Wright’s “Almos’ a Man,” William Faulkner’s “Barn Burning,” and C. Liegh McInnis’ “Salvation.” I also show the films Barn Burning and Almos’ a Man. The lesson culminates with students writing an essay in which they discuss two works from the aforementioned list. Students must show how the writers develop the “Coming of Age” theme in their works.
I also use Wright in my Developmental English class. I tape Wright’s haiku around the classroom. Students walk around the class reading the poems. They then choose two haiku that they feel are similar in theme. Students write an essay discussing what they think Wright is trying to convey through the theme that they identify in the haiku. This semester, I shall add an extra step to the activity. Once students choose two Wright haiku, they will contribute to a painting that will help viewers visualize the poet’s haiku.
Attending the Making the Wright Connection Institute at the University of Kansas has influenced me to teach the author even though he might be considered difficult to teach. There are so many students who need to hear his voice, especially students who are natives of Wright’s home state.”


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.