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The Paw Print

The Student News Site of Wilde Lake High School

The Paw Print

The Student News Site of Wilde Lake High School

The Paw Print

Recruitment for African American Literature Class Falls Short

Faith Brown
COLUMBIA, MARYLAND, MARCH 18, 2024- Abisola Ayoola and Hannah Boyer discuss Abisola’s research project for the AP African American Studies exam. Abisola’s project is on the evolution of fashion across the diaspora.

This year, English teacher Mr. Alan Nettles was determined to recruit enough students to run the first African American Literature class at Wilde Lake.

However, at the time of publishing “The Paw Print” issue 50:2, with a plethora of electives to choose from, only four students registered for the class. This means the class did not have enough students to run.

According to the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS), a class must have 20 registered students to run for the 2024-25 school year. Still, students and teachers recognize the importance of African American literature in the school curriculum.

The initiative to incorporate an African American Literature class in the HCPSS curriculum is reflective of a nationwide trend. According to the Washington Post, nearly 700 schools have incorporated African American Studies classes into their curriculum.

Mr. Nettles says that African American Studies classes are becoming widespread.

Still, African American history curriculum’s across the nation are fiercely debated. In some counties, parts of the curriculum have been removed entirely.

For example, according to the New York Times, Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, is trying to ban the Advanced Placement (AP) African American curriculum because he says it is “historically not accurate” and the African American
books presented in classrooms are not appropriate.

That’s why Mr. Nettles says the African American Literature class is so important.

“It’s important that there’s access to stories and authors connected to African American culture,” said Mr. Nettles. “African American Literature has access to those stories that have not been told.”

At Wilde Lake High School, 44% of students identify as African American/Black, according to a school report.

Although the school is predominantly Black, the course has never been offered.

Mr. Nettles says that it is important to share and learn the history of African American individuals and stay connected to their culture because of the African American population at Wilde Lake.

Senior Emmanuel Dean is currently taking AP African American Studies. “It is important to get another historical perspective outside of the white lens that most students may be accustomed to,” Emmanuel said.

Students of color like senior Caitlin Beasley feel that books they have been taught in school have little to no representation.

Caitlin has always felt disappointed by the lack of representation in her past English classes. She said she didn’t see herself in stories when she was younger because the characters never looked like her.

Similarly, having no representation can change how people see characters, according to Senior Naila Ba’th.

At Wilde Lake, students of every grade are exposed to books by African American authors, according to research by “The Paw Print.”

However, Naila says that she was never able to see herself in literature before reading the “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass” by Frederick Douglass as a junior.

She says that all the characters in her assigned English class books were white.

“I got so used to reading about white people that I started imagining and seeing all the characters as white,” Naila said.

She says that when she first read the “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass,” she was inspired by the African American point of view.

“It was inspiring to see what he went through and overcame because different voices will tell you different things that other voices do not want you to hear,” Naila said.

For Mr. Nettles, African American Literature is more than just connecting with the characters. He says the African American curriculum is important for students who want to connect to their African American culture.

Senior Antonio Hardy says the class could have provided students with a more focused view on African American authors.

“[The class could] give students a better perspective on African American literature than a regular English class,” he said.

The Harlem Renaissance, the Black Arts Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, and contemporary works of African American authors should have been included in the curriculum, according to Mr. Nettles.

Registered students would have also explored their creative side while learning about African American writing, Mr. Nettle says.

“Creative opportunity for students to access Black [African American] authors and develop their own interpretations of what the authors are trying to say is important. Students really [should have taken] advantage of the class,” said Mr. Nettles.

Teachers like English teacher Ms. Jessica Stoltz are saddened that this opportunity to explore African American authors will not be available to students.

“Saying it is a shame is an understatement. I often think what we lose first are the courses that are actually the most engaging and the most geared toward student interest,” said Ms. Stoltz

We interviewed Wilde Lake teachers to see what African American literature they teach in class. Here is what they reported:

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas - 9th Grade
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds - 9th Grade
A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry - 9th Grade
The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore - 9th Grade
Dear Martin by Nic Stone - 10th Grade
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah - 10th Grade
Super Human by Nicole Yoon - 10th Grade
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Fredrick Douglass - 11th Grade

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward - 11th Grade
The Color of Water by James McBride - 11th Grade
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston - 12th Grade
Kindred by Octavia Butler - 12th Grade
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison - 12th Grade
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates - 12th Grade
Fences by August Wilson - 12th Grade
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi - 12th Grade

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