Teach This Poem, though developed with a classroom in mind, can be easily adapted for remote learning, hybrid learning models, or in-person classes. Please see our suggestions for how to adapt this lesson for remote or blended learning. We have also noted suggestions when applicable and will continue to add to these suggestions online.
Warm-up (gallery walk): (Teachers, this gallery walk could be completed online or in-person using a copy of the quote, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired,” from the poem and this image of Fannie Lou Hamer.) Look carefully at the image and the quote. What do you notice? Look again. What else do you see?
Before Reading the Poem: Watch the PBS video exploring Fannie Lou Hamer’s testimony here. Why was Fannie Lou Hamer’s testimony so poignant? What connections can you make between Hamer’s words and today?
Reading the Poem: Read the poem “What Fannie Lou Hamer Said” by Mahogany L. Browne silently. What do you notice about the poem? Annotate for any words or phrases that stand out to you or any questions you might have. (Teachers, if you are meeting synchronously, we suggest sharing a video screen that allows for students to annotate together. If you are meeting asynchronously, we suggest asking students to post or share their annotations in your online classroom platform.)
Listening to the Poem: (Teachers, enlist two volunteers to read the poem aloud): Listen as the poem is read aloud twice, and write down any additional words and phrases that stand out to you. You may opt to listen to the poet read the poem aloud twice here. Call back the lines that you like by saying these lines aloud with your classmates. (Teachers, for synchronous meetings, you could ask two students to read the poem, and for asynchronous meetings, students could read the poem on their own or with a family member.)
Small-group Discussion: Share what you noticed in the poem with a small group of students. Based on the details you just shared with your small group, how might you describe Fannie Lou Hamer? What is Hamer fighting for?
Whole-class Discussion: In what ways is this poem a celebration of Fannie Lou Hamer’s work and a call to action? What is the significance of the epigraph in the poem? (Teachers, if your students need more context, you can find Fannie Lou Hamer’s 1964 testimony before the Credentials Committee here.)
Extension for Grades 7-8: (Teachers, you may wish to partner with a history teacher to further expand this lesson.) Research more about the Voting Rights Act of 1965 here and learn about current voter suppression here. By yourself or in a small group, create an illustrated history of voting in the United States, and make sure to highlight Voting Rights activists and pioneers.
Extension for Grades 9-12: (Teachers, you may wish to partner with a history teacher to further expand this lesson.) Research more about the Voting Rights Act of 1965 here and learn about current voter suppression here. Participate in a fishbowl discussion about what you learned about voting and the role of voting in 2020.
In partnership with the New York Philharmonic, we commissioned nineteen women poets, including Mahogany L. Browne, to write poems marking the centennial of the passage of the 19th Amendment. Read the poems here.