We Want Live Words: The Black Arts Movement and Its Hip Hop Progeny

Mark Buzzee, Language Arts, Jay M. Robinson Middle School

Final Unit (PDF)

Implementing Common Core Standards (PDF)

200 Word Synopsis

This unit, to be taught in an eighth-grade Language Arts classroom, seeks to explore the relationship between the Black Arts Movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s and the salient cultural force of the next generation: hip hop. Students will gain crucial historical background on the Civil Rights era by means of studying primary source documents, such as video footage, speeches, and newspaper articles. However, the primary focus will be literature. The Black Arts Movement contains some of the most vibrant and impassioned poetry of the American canon, literature that responded to urgent social issues of its day. Students will analyze how these issues are reflected and refracted a generation later through the lyrics, videos, and artwork of the hip hop generation. They will hone their skills as investigators of the ways in which texts collide to create new meaning by means of their creation of a “mixtape” that explores a current civil rights issue by means of juxtaposing texts of a variety of genres and composing liner notes that connect texts and elucidate their relationships.