African American Poetry and the Idea of Citizenship: Citizenship, Rights, and the Constitution

Pia N. Townes, Social Studies, Wilson STEM Academy

Curriculum Unit (PDF)


This curriculum unit seeks to aid scholars in their ability to exhibit analytical and cognitive skills that reflect knowledge and understanding regarding the Constitution, citizenship, and rights. First, scholars study the Constitution and learn the required historical content with emphasis on Amendments 5, 13, 14, 15, 19, and 24. This foundation helps scholars understand how our government defines, grants, and applies citizenship to whom it considers Americans. Equally, scholars must also recognize the imperfections within the Constitution leading to the denial of citizenship and rights to minority or underserved groups. In an effort to help scholars gain insight to these social and civic injustices, this unit uses poetry. Poetry serves as a cross- curriculum connector for literacy and social studies. As scholars analyze the author’s purpose and meaning, they look within the Constitution and identify the unjust laws, policies, and practices exposed by the poets. Using content knowledge and poetic interpretations, scholars form opinions and reflect on the problems and solutions in the Constitution pertaining to citizenship and one’s ability to exercise rights. As they compare and contrast Amendments and primary source documents, scholars learn how challenges and modifications to the Constitution creates avenues for improvement and inclusivity.