Exploring African American Citizenship Through Spoken Word

Christie Johnson, Exceptional Children, Albemarle Road Elementary

Curriculum Unit (PDF)


Citizenship is defined as a state of being vested with the rights, privileges, and duties of a citizen. Citizenship addresses the character of an individual and how they are viewed as a member of society. Behavior in terms of the duties, obligations, and functions of a citizen are all key components to defining citizenship. In America citizenship has been a long and painful process for some Americans, and for many other Americans true citizenship is continuing to be a legal battle. African Americans have been fighting for citizenship in America since the Emancipation Proclamation and before Phillis Wheatley. The history of poetry within the African American Community has a long and deep history that tells a story of oppression, family and perseverance. Poetry has evolved from being an oral tradition, to a written from of art and now to a new widely accepted form of orality, known as spoken word or slam poetry. With slam poetry captivating America and pushing back on what America accepts as an art form, this unit will explore what an oral tradition is, how oral traditions help to define African American citizenship and how oral traditions continue to contribute to citizenship through spoken word and slam poetry.