The African-American Graphic Novel: Discovering, Examining and Creating Graphic Narratives of Racialized Experience

Author: Tara Ann Carter


John Bartram High School

Year: 2012

Seminar: American Racial Politics

Grade Level: 9

Keywords: civil rights, graphic novel, race

School Subject(s): English, Literature

Though the Civil Rights Era legislative and cultural victories did allow African-Americans and other minorities to gain some ground, a new issue began to emerge. Systematic racism created an additional barrier against non-white citizens in many arenas of American life. While the election of Barak Obama does certainly signal significant change in terms of the perceptions of race in America, there still remains the need for substantial reform and rethinking of norms and standards that exclude or disenfranchise minorities, African-American, Latino, Asian-American or otherwise.

It is undeniable that the racial policies, attitudes and histories of the United States are complicated and intertwined. However, as Americans we must navigate the politics of race on a daily basis. The Internet and television inundate one with images and knowledge about any culture, race or tribe imaginable, yet ignorance and mis-education abound. Race is a major issue in America. The discussion of race and personal experiences of race is essential to high school understanding, particular in the diverse schools within the School District of Philadelphia. This unit creates an avenue to begin this discussion.

The only way that race can come to play a diminishing role of importance in American life is through education about race, racism and Otherness. Emphasis is placed on education of previous experiences of African-Americans for students to find footing in history in order to inform their own experience, African-American or otherwise.

This unit is intended for a ninth grade Honors Literature course. The students in this course generally read on grade level and are capable of writing on a reasonable level. This unit provides possibilities for any teacher in an empowerment school teaching a non-scripted elective reading course. While the specific students for which this unit is designed are primarily African-American this does not imply that students of any other race or nationality would not benefit from the texts, exercises and activities described herein.

Download Unit: TIP-carter-unit-FINAL.pdf

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