Tips for Screencasting

In her post for ProfHacker, Amy Cavender offers some tips for screencasting. Two of the best are time limits and scripts.

Cavender suggests that screencasts should be two to four minutes. in general, I would agree, but the screencast can be longer if the circumstances call for it. Some instructors use screencasts for lectures as part of blended learning. I have used screencasts for assessing student work, and this sometimes goes beyond the ideal “four minute” mark. For tutorials and student presentations, two to four minutes is ideal, but time limit should be determined by the function of the screencast.

Cavender also suggests a script. I think a script is great, especially, as she offers, if you plan to create a SRT file with captions. When I first started doing screencasts, I used a full script, and spent so much time on the script that it added labor to doing the screencast. I recommend using an outline, much in the way some opt to use an outline when presenting a paper rather than reading the paper. It makes the screencast seem more natural and less stilted, and more effective since you are not spending time perfecting a script.

I would add one additional tip on takes. While one may be tempted to barrel through recording the entire screencast in one take, I would recommend breaking it up. I use Screencast-O-Matic, which allows you to pause the recording and truncate so that you can eliminate parts you do not want to use.

Amy Cavender. “Simple Screencasting Tips.” ProfHacker. 11 Aug 2014. Web. 15 Aug 2014.

Prezi Essays

This past semester, I experimented with having my students write essays in Prezi, the web-based presentation software, in my Science Fiction class, a 200-level literature course for non-majors. I sought to improve the organization of the essays and improve the strategic use of evidence to support claims. I’ve tried more traditional ways of getting students to pay more attention to the structure of their papers, like outlines. I’ve also modeled citation in class from primary and secondary textual sources in an effort to get students to take only what they need, instead of unnecessarily long or unrelated passages.

I opted to experiment with Prezi to see if students would produce more structured and well-supported arguments if they could visualize them.  I scaffolded assignments as I normally would leading up to the final project for the class:  summaries of primary texts, drafts of thesis paragraphs and annotated bibliography entries.  I had students work out the “map” of their Prezi essays using a sentence outline or just grouping ideas together and using peer review to determine how they would move from one idea to the other.  As the rubric for the deconstructed essay shows, students had word count limits on slides. These limits were designed to make students more conscious of how they used text as evidence and how they explained the significance of video or visual evidence.

Overall, I was pleased with the way the essays turned out. Some students still had trouble with the idea of an essay, which they see only as text-based in a Word document, in a Prezi. Next semester, I plan to have students complete their major projects in Prezi.  This time, students will create an academic poster, an assignment often given in science and social science courses, for their analysis of literature and film in my Detective Fiction course. Students are familiar with academic posters, and the use of Prezi will allow them the ability to embed images and video, something they cannot do with traditional poster board posters.

My goals remain the same: to use Prezi to help students improve the organization of their writing and use evidence effectively.

Peaceful Protest: Not an Easy Thing to Do (Conversations with Dead People):

The topic of this conversation between Paul Laurence Dunbar and Claude McKay is whether nonviolent protest is effective today. Paul, who is a firm believer in nonviolence, asks his good friend, Claude, to join him for a Black Lives Matter protest in Baltimore, Maryland. To his surprise, Claude does not share some his [Paul’s] sentiments in regards to nonviolence and will challenge Dunbar’s beliefs. By the end of this conversation, we will discover whether peaceful protest gives you an advantage or if it is simply a hindrance from being fully prepared in cases of resistance.

Paul Laurence Dunbar

Paul Laurence Dunbar

Paul Laurence Dunbar: Hey Claude! It’s great to see you again old friend. Lately, it seems, we’ve been having a hard time reconnecting. Unfortunately, I only have about an hour to chat since I am heading up to Baltimore to participate in a non-violent protest against police brutality. I’m sure you have seen all of the recent events and heard about the rioting that has occurred throughout the city since the death of Freddie Gray. Well, Black Lives Matter has been organizing a series of peaceful protest throughout the week to bring reconciliation in these hard times. Only the words of my poem Sympathy can accurately express the pain that I feel. “I know why the caged bird beats his wing/Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;/For he must fly back to his perch and cling/When he fain would be on the bough a-swing/And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars/And they pulse again with a keener sting–/I know why he beats his wing!” Claude, I would love for you to join me if you have the time. I think your presence can be quite influential in this situation and create a positive change.

Claude McKay

Claude McKay

Claude McKay: Yes, Paul, it has been far too long. And, yes, we both know how it feels to be oppressed and bound by the systematic restraints that police us as Black men. That is why I personally struggle with the idea of nonviolent protesting. Although I do not believe that it is entirely ineffective, I have my doubts. In the past, we can see the changes that were a direct result of the Civil Rights Movement, but I wonder if that same movement would be possible today. You mentioned police brutality, well, I believe that is not only important for our people to teach our children how to respond to law enforcement but to also be able to physically defend ourselves when necessary. Like you, I have also written about this burden that we bear in my poem Enslaved. I quote, “My heart grows sick with hate, becomes as lead,/For this my race that has no home on earth./Then from the dark depths of my soul I cry/To the avenging angel to consume/The white man’s world of wonders utterly…” But I, my brother, cannot be so forgiving. I cannot react peacefully to death and violence.

Paul Laurence Dunbar:​ You know, Claude, I believe that we have to continue to stand together in times like this. When the Black community is still facing so much discrimination and violence, we have to be the change we want to see in the world. From my experience with peaceful protests, I have come to believe that this isn’t just the best form of resistance but also the most psychologically healthy choice. The great Dr. Martin Luther King often spoke on nonviolence. He even said, “Let no man pull you low enough to hate him.” That simply means we have to fight the natural human urge to hate those who mistreat us no matter how severe the pain. Yeah, C-Mac, it can be a really hard thing to do, but hatred only destroys us in the end. My goal is to have inner peace with God and myself. He is the only one who can judge and give us true freedom and equality. In my poem, I spoke about this very issue in Not They Who Soar when I said, “Not they who soar, but they who plod/Their rugged way, unhelped, to God/Are heroes.” While I do believe you have some valid points surrounding your ideas on violent protest and fighting back, I still believe that we will find justice if we seek it the right way. For, even if we die, it will never be in vain.

Claude McKay:​ Well Paul, you have made some interesting points, but I have to respectfully disagree. In my poem If We Must Die that you just loosely quoted, I state, “…oh, let us nobly die, So that our precious blood may not be shed In vain; then even the monsters we defy Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!” I am a firm believer that people respect hard workers and those who are willing to fight for what they believe in. Though they may destroy our bodies, they will remember our courage, our will, and our strength. Malcolm X once said, “Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you are a man, you take it.” My personal values are more aligned with his stance on nonviolence. We cannot sit around and wait for the police or the law or even the president to work on our behalf. We have to rise up like men! We have break away from the systematic oppression that has kept us silent for so long. You say that “violent protest” will cause self-destruction. Well, I say that we are not violent; we are just prepared. Until I am able to watch the news and not worry about the safety of our Black fathers, sons, and brothers, I will never have inner peace. My peace comes from knowing that my sons will make it home alive and that my daughters will be treated the same as their White, female counterparts. That is as close to freedom and peace that I think I will find.

We Wear the Mask

Paul Laurence Dunbar: I must say that I am slightly surprised by your comments. On the other hand, I have known you for a long time and I have always admired your outspokenness and fervor. You feel as though we are not properly defending ourselves, but I have found that violence only begets violence. The main objective of peaceful protesting is negotiation. We cannot afford to miss any opportunity that we may have to sit down with our current leaders and restructure the system. Do you think that government officials would be willing to do that with people who are attacking and fighting against them? I don’t. Yes, this approach may seem a bit unsavory at first, but it can open the door the change that we hope to see. Believe me when I say, “We wear the mask that grins and lies,/It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,–/This debt we pay to human guile;/With torn and bleeding hearts we smile…”

Claude McKay: You are right when you speak about negotiating. My only concern lies in the way in which we get there. The truth is, a completely nonviolent and peaceful protest is unlikely under these circumstances. In the past few weeks, members of the Baltimore community attempted to have a week of peaceful protests but were unable to do so. I truly believe that we have to judge for ourselves which approach we should take on a situation-by-situation basis. It is easy to say that we should respond peacefully, but would we if it were our children on the news? No, I would not remain peaceful and I would not negotiate. Justice is what we seek! And, a legal system that will allow for this brutality to occur is not just; it is cruel. I stick by my words when I said, “But I am bound with you in your mean graves,/O black men, simple slaves of ruthless slaves.” In Bondage is another poem where I address this burden of my Black people. You speak about human guile and bleeding hearts but hearts only bleed when they have broken, trampled, lacerated, and cut. That, my friend, is violence.

Peaceful Protest Baltimore

Paul Laurence Dunbar: Point well made, Claude. But, if we want to see a completely nonviolent protest, we must continue to have conversations like this. Even you are uncertain of the effectiveness of a peaceful approach – you, who is one of the influential voices of our time. Can we then expect others to follow if we are not doing so ourselves? C-Mac, I adamantly believe that this movement can be the reincarnation of the Civil Rights Movement if we can produce a leader to guide the people in the right direction. Back then, they had Dr. Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, John Lewis, and the list goes on. Today, we have not seen that much needed leadership brought to the forefront of this movement. In God’s time, I know that it will happen; but, I believe until then, we have to continue to live peaceably with all men.

Claude McKay: I once said in my The White House, “Your door is shut against my tightened face,/And I am sharp as steel with discontent;/But I possess the courage and the grace/To bear my anger proudly and unbent.” I will not lie; it is not an easy task. Still, in the end, we share a common goal. I do encourage rioting but I hope to be able to defend my loved ones and myself if need be. Just like you’ve said, “We sing, but oh the clay is vile/Beneath our feet, and long the mile…” Yes, we do wear the mask, but I hope the day will come when we don’t have to. That is what I am fighting for – what we are fighting for.

Paul Laurence Dunbar: I am glad that we are able to find a silver lining, my friend. That is why I still want you to come to this protest with me. I understand that you may not be fully convinced of my methods, but being there could help you to see why I believe in it. It is always a pleasure talking with you. You challenge me in my thinking and I hope I can provide you the same courtesy.

Claude McKay: My sentiments mirror your own, Paul. I think attending this protest would be an excellent opportunity for me to get a better understanding of your perspective. I have heard so much about the Black Live Matter campaign but this will be the first time I am able to physically participate. Thank you for inviting and we can continue this discussion on the way to Baltimore.

Do #BlackWomenLivesMatter?: A Conversation with Anna Julia Cooper and W.E.B. DuBois

This is a conversation between W.E.B. DuBois and Anna Julia Cooper about incidences of police brutality in and how women are represented in those incidences. 

DuBois: Women are the backbone of the Negro community. It is with their dedication to rearing our children and upkeeping the household that we will become the great people we were destined to become. When our black men are executed, it is up to our women to sustain their families. I agree, Ms. Cooper, that black women are often forgotten and therefore underrepresented, but they are making vast improvements in the workplace! They earn the same, if not more, than their male counterparts. Black, female laborers outnumber their male counterparts in several cities, an indication that women are indeed becoming more equal to men. Surely, women have been disadvantaged. Their purpose has changed. Expectations of them have changed. In my Damnation of Women, I mention that black women “are today furnishing our teachers; they are the main pillars of those social settlements which we call churches…”(768).


Cooper: I believe that you said it best, Mr. DuBois: black women are the most damned of them all. She is in competition with her white contemporaries who are protected under God, unlike the Negro woman is too savage for God’s mercy. She is still second, third, fourth best to her peers. When her men are executed, she is the first to arrive at the scene. She is the first to petition for his rights, which neither party experiences according to you, Mr. DuBois. It is by God’s grace that the Negro has come this far, though white men would like to deny us entrance to Glory. Black women stand at the helm of the church according to you, Mr. DuBois, but how is it possible that when black women are murdered by the same police who murder men, and when they protest for justice that black men still fail to support them? As I said in my Womanhood A Vital Element, “we need men who can let their interest and gallantry extend outside the circle of their aesthetic appreciation; men who can be a father, a brother, a friend to every weak, struggling unshielded girl.”(628)

: Well isn’t this great? A black man and woman are innocently driving alone on the highway and a white police officer finds a way to stop them. Black men have no break in this country! He’s deprived of economic opportunities and denied upward mobility. How do you intend to defend me, Ms. Cooper? Will you use emotion to appeal to this officer? Regardless, men rarely experience the privilege of apathy from our white peers so I don’t expect this circumstance to deviate from that unfortunate truth. American society has been constructed around the fear of black success, particularly the success of black men. Slave owners intentionally separated fathers from their families because it emasculated and kept them from establishing close-knit relationships. As I wrote in The Souls of Black Folk, “we dare not let them [become men], and we build about them walls so high, and hang between them and the light a veil so thick, that they shall not even think of breaking through.”(716)


Cooper: I think you’ve omitted an important element to your argument in your complete denial of the black woman’s existence. As you speak about the plight of the black man and his demise at the hands of white supremacy, you’ve forgotten to speak about the black woman who picks up the pieces of that broken man. Where men were sold separately, women had to stabilize the family. Black women have become symbols for tenacity, especially for the roles they played in supporting the black family. There’s no denying that black men experienced, and continue to experience hardship at the hands of white people, but you cannot erase the female experience from that narrative. In fact, you’ve forgotten that I’m sitting in this car with you, stopped by the same police officer at the same time. Jesus Christ “has given to men a rule and guide for the estimation of woman as an equal”(623), therefore, you we should confront this experience as peers, not as master and subordinate.

DuBois: And who is this police officer going to address when he approaches the car, Ms. Cooper? He is going to approach the driver, a black man who, statistically, has a disproportionately higher probability of being murdered by a police officer than his white peers. The threat of incarceration is also a pertinent threat in the black, male psyche. One might imagine the stress that black men experience in avoiding incarceration on a daily basis. There’s heightened stress during interactions with law enforcement for that reason and people wonder why black men don’t trust their supposed “protectors” and “servers”. Black women have to support black men in their effort to subvert stereotypes and avoid confrontation than law enforcement. As you know, “progress in human affairs is more often a pull than a push”(718), and black women have to contribute to that pushing.


Cooper: Black women experience police brutality as much as black men, Mr. Cooper. Women experience stress in different ways than men. Mothers have to pray over their sons and husbands who walk into heightened danger inside and outside of their communities. Black women also live on a complicated boundary where both their gender and race intersect and make navigating through a patriarchal and racist world exclusively difficult. Let’s look at women who’ve been murdered by police in recent history so that you may understand that black men are not the sole recipients of police violence in the United States. Tanisha Anderson, Yvette Smith, and Rekia Boyd are all on a short list of a very long list of unarmed black women who’ve been murdered by police officers

Statistics on incarcerated black men compared to black men enrolled in college. (Source: American Council on Education)

Statistics on incarcerated black men compared to black men enrolled in college. (Source: American Council on Education)

. God shows no bias upon our arrival to His kingdom. We all arrive as equals, however illogical that might seem, Mr. DuBois. In my Womanhood a Vital Element, I contest that “the vital agency of womanhood in the regeneration and progress of a race…is conceded almost before it is fairly stated.”(625) I believe you have something to learn from that claim.

: It’s important to recognize the feminization of the slave narrative and black experience in America. We know that women were the target audience for authors of slave narratives and they appealed to that audience with emotional stories about womanhood in the context of slavery. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the most popular slave narrative of all time, is written by a white woman who writes the story from the perspective of a passive, male slave whose best friend is a small, white girl. Black men have been strategically removed from the slave experience because of a systematic attempt to suppress their masculinity. This tension between men and women in instances of police brutality has a context deeply rooted in American slave strategy and organization. This very context keeps black men out of work and black women scrubbing floors. I am, in my own right, a feminist, but I also understand the logical reasons why the male narrative is one more exclusively discussed in instances of police brutality.


Cooper: I understand this perspective, Mr. DuBois, but I also think that your status as an academic with a considerable amount of privilege has jaded your opinions in this debate. As a woman who has done work on the ground level of this fight, I can say that women are as equally forgotten in modern-day conversations about racism than men. Women are excluded from most conversations in a world conflated with male concerns. Men determine legislation on reproductive rights! We live in a world where women either have their voices stifled or recreated by men and I don’t want to live in this world, Mr. DuBois. Black women are at the sides of their sons and husbands at these protests, but where were those men at the protests for Renisha McBride? Mr. DuBois, “the position of woman in society determineRMcBrides the vital elements of its regeneration and progress.”(624)

DuBois: Women are a major system of support in our community. They have not been forgotten and I refuse to allow you to convince them otherwise. You have said yourself, “woman, mother,–your responsibility is one that might make angels tremble and fear to take hold… The training of children is a task on which an infinity of weal or woe depends.”(624) It seems that you agree with my argument that women are a coveted species. As we’ve been parked here at the side of the road I’ve come to understand a few things about womanhood and how it interacts with police brutality. I cannot fully understand that experience as a man but I can postulate and engage in discussions with women about it. I feel that this has been fruitful.


Cooper: It is this that you must take into account, Mr. DuBois: women and men may become equals, perhaps beyond our lifetimes, but men must meet women halfway, they must extend outside the circle of aesthetic appreciation and come to the forefront of the fight for equality at the side of women, not in front. It seems that if men and women are truly becoming equal that men might men might meet their women in the middle. This not the case, Mr. Washington. I leave you with this from my writing: “Here is the vulnerable point, not in the heel, but at the heart of the young Achilles, and here must the defenses be strengthened and the watch redoubled.”(626) This is in reference to womanhood, Mr. DuBois. Womanhood is the young Achilles in our discussions about race and police brutality. It is painful to navigate but renderable with the correct treatment.

The Implication of Mass Incarceration on Black Families




This is a project created by Josephine Gardner for ENG 238 African American Literature, Pre-1945 at Elon University, taught by Dr. Crystal Anderson. It is a conversation between two African American writers who discuss a contemporary issue. This dialogue gives students an opportunity to engage in close reading and relate literary texts to contemporary ideas.

Authors: Sojourner Truth and Frances E. W. Harper

Contemporary issue: Mass Incarceration

Sojourner Truth: From one feminist to another, I understand the difficulty of being a black woman in America. We face the ‘dual consciousness’ and ‘double jeopardy’ of being dually oppressed by our status of being black and a woman.  Therefore, it saddens me to see the new birth of slavery: Mass incarceration. Which has left women yet again to fend for themselves. Like the New Jim Crow law, “ I denounced slavery as a moral abomination tempting the wrath of God on America” (p. 177).  If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, we have the power to fight for justice and equality in the private and domestic sphere. In my speech of “Ain’t I a Woman? At the women’s Right Convention, I explained the strength and the spiritual will women posses from the divine power. However, Harper, you believe progressive reform and government legislation is going to reverse the systematic oppression, poverty and the social pathologies of racial stereotypes. I ask you this, how can the system be expected to protect those it was never meant to protect?


Frances E. W. Harper:  Truth, your idea to advocate and hold speeches for black women and their rights is useless. We need progressive political reform and new legislation that brings forth tangible action and results to eradicate the mass incarceration of our black men.  Yes, black women are strong and independent and can do the same work as a man. However, just like slavery institution, the New Jim Crow law is responsible for destroying familial relationships and the very fabric of the black family. Women have the power to give the social advancement and the moral development to the human race: “the social and political advancement which woman has already gained bears the promise of the rising of the full-orbed sun of emancipation” (Woman’s Political Future, pg. 470).  Today, women hold in their hands the power to influence and enact new laws. The ballot in the hands of woman means power added to influence to change the course of America’s very foundation to make sure black men and women and most importantly black families are protected under the law.

Sojourner Truth: I understand the power of legislative laws. However, how do you enforce laws that are just written on a piece of paper?  We have tried that with the 13th and 14th Amendments and the integration of public schools. Young black men of color are discriminated and disenfranchised by the people who swore to protect and serve them as a result of decades of misguided criminal justice and public safety policy to address poverty.  Throughout history, when the blacks asked for their social problems of drug-infested communities, urban poverty, crime and violence to be averted, the policy makers changed the course by expanding the prison industrial complex. Mass incarceration has placed our black men in racial caste subordination and placed them permanently as a second-class citizen. The new Jim Crow law operates under the old Jim Crow law where during slavery, the white men in the south maintain the system in the legal way: “but men is in a tight place, the poor slave is on him, women is coming on him, he is surely between a hawk and a buzzard” (Ar’n’t I a Woman, pg. 178). Even in modern day, in the era of colorblindness, “there are more African-American under correctional control-in-prison or jail, on probation or parole-than were enslaved in 1850” (Alexander, 2011).  As a result, a black child born today is less likely to be raised by both parents than a black child born during slavery. Therefore, I strongly argue that legislative laws is just words written on a paper. What black people need is protest and justice through their own doing, not through some politicians.

Frances E. W. Harper: I want to elaborate on how today there are more African-American black men in prison or in jail than ever before. In the era of colorblindness, it is no longer socially permissible to use race, explicitly, as a justification for discrimination, exclusion, and social contempt (Alexander, 2011).  This reminds me a lot of slavery in its true sense: “political life in our country has plowed in muddy channels, and needs the infusion of clearer and cleaner waters. I am not sure that women are naturally so much better than men that they will clear the stream by the virtue of their womanhood” (Woman’s Political Future, Pg. 471).   Just as slavery was injustice, so is mass incarceration and I believe rather than directly relying on race, we use the criminal justice system to label people of color as ‘criminals’ ” The legal system has replaced one racial caste system with a new one and that is why it is important to tackle social injustice through the court system.

Sojourner Truth: It is because of systematic imprisonment of whole groups of population that women and children have to cope psychologically with the absence of husbands and fathers locked in incarceration and adjusts life without a male-figure. To tell you the truth, the law is against black men, once labeled felon, he is branded for life, he will experience economic disadvantages, erodes opportunities for employment because of his criminal records, loss of his right for welfare benefits and voting rights. Thus it is impossible for black men to integrate fully back into society so they are more likely to return back into prison. This destroys the natural order of the home causing women to be placed in a position that was not designed by the natural order. Fortunately, Since the inception of slavery black female have been head of their families, providing stable environment and financial support for our children, since, “I have as much muscle as any man, and can do as much work as any man. I have plowed and reaped and husked and chopped and mowed, and can any man do more than that?” (Ar’n’t I a Woman, pg. 178).

Frances E. W. Harper: Yes, throughout history the black communities have been led by matriarchal society. However, I argue that the breakdown of African American families through slavery and now mass incarceration contributes to the ghetto poverty and the crime and distortion of urban communities. Mother’s have to endure poverty and the high demand of living standards set today that does not allow a family to live comfortably with just one income. Men behind bars cannot fully play the role of fathers and husband.  Also, children who grow up in poor communities and raised by single parents are less likely to finish school or have good health.  In ‘The Slave Mother’ I discuss separation of families and the devastating pain that mother, specifically, suffered in bondage: “ saw you the sad, imploring eye? Its every glance was pain, As if a storm of agony Were sweeping through the brain” (pg. 450).

Sojourner Truth: Society has given black women the perception that they can only rely on themselves since at any moment; black men in their life can be uprooted. The American culture has come to associate black men as ‘criminals’. We live in an individualistic and desensitized society where we view prisoners as external to society, placing physical wires and barriers between ‘us’ and ‘them’. When I read newspapers, black words written on white papers by white people: “Every newspaper in the land will have our cause mixed with abolition and niggers” (Ar’n’t I A Woman, P.179.) I am no words or a nigger but this is how I am viewed. Don’t I have the right to raise my family, don’t I have the right to equality. These are the questions I still ponder.

Frances E. W. Harper: Truth, you advocate that black women should be self-sufficient and independent. However, the underlying concerns and the focus should be on the very foundation of black families since, “so close is the bond between man and woman that you can not raise one without lifting the other” (Woman’s Political Future, P. 470).  The exclusion of black men from our community not only does this affect black men, it also affects their families and their children who have to bear the stigma of being associated with a felon. As a result of this, children in these communities are raised in broken homes losing a male figure and a role-model. Thus, how can a nation be uplifted just by black women when half of its race is behind bars.

Sojourner Truth: Ar’n’t I a woman who has as much muscular power, who has “plowed, planted and gathered into barns, and no man could head me… I have heard much about the sexes being equal. I can carry as much as any man, and can eat as much too, if I can get it. I am as strong as any man that is now” (Ar’n’t I A Woman, p. 178-180). Because of the muscular power that I have in me, I will be able to raise my children and provide them with everything they need. If black women rely on black men they will experience severe social, psychological and economic distress because the criminal justice system continuously targets our black men and place them in isolation with shackles on their hands and on their feet.

Frances E. W. Harper:  I think you are not understanding the social, economical and political implication of mass incarceration. Let’s agree to disagree. But I just want to reiterate my point that, “ I do not believe that the most ignorant and brutal man is better prepared to add value to the strength and durability of the government than the most cultured, upright, and intelligent women. I do not think that willful ignorance should swamp earnest intelligence at the ballot-box, nor that educated wickedness, violence, and fraud should cancel the votes of honest men” (Woman’s Political Future, p. 471).  For these reason I feel that the correlation between mass incarceration, slavery and all injustice should be viewed this way.

Gates Jr, Henry Louis, and Valerie A. Smith. The Norton Anthology of African American         Literature 3, no. 1. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2014.

Which team are you a part of: #TeamLightskin or #TeamDarkskin

If you have a Twitter account, search the hashtag #teamlightskin or #teamdarkskin and numerous tweets will come up. Most of them, if not all, are ridiculous and posted by people who have been conditioned by today’s society. What’s interesting to see is that majority if not all of these tweets are posted by black people! Black people are teaming up against one another instead of coming together and realizing their strength as a race. Below you will find a conversation between Charles Chesnutt and Zora Neale Hurston discussing colorism within the black community.


charles waddell chestnut

Charles Chesnutt: Colorism is justified and constantly reinforced in society. I don’t see the problem with it. The lighter folk have more opportunities handed to them than the darker folk. The lighter folk are even more respected. Consider the Blue Vein Society from my work, “The Wife of His Youth”, where I describe a group of people who are considered socially acceptable: “By accident, combined perhaps with some natural affinity, the society consisted of individuals who were, generally speaking, more white than black. Some envious outside made the suggestion that no one was eligible for membership who was not white enough to show blue veins…if most of their members were light-colored, it was because such persons, as a rule, had had better opportunities to qualify themselves for membership” (602).

Zora Neale Hurston: Black folk and this colorism debate needs to end. I’m sorry to tell you Charles but colorism is not justified although society constantly reinforces this idea! Are we not all black? We need to stop perpetuating this idea that “light is right” within the black community. The whites used this idea during slavery times to hinder our advancement. Instead of putting one another down, we need to learn how to come together, support one another, and celebrate our blackness. As I explained in “How It Feels to Be Colored Me”: “Slavery is sixty years in the past…Slavery is the price I paid for civilization, and the choice was not with me. It is a bully adventure and worth all that I have paid through my ancestors for it. No one on earth ever had a greater chance for glory. The world to be won and nothing to be lost” (1040).

black is black

Charles Chesnutt: Being light increases the probability of allowing passing in society, which isn’t always a bad thing, might I add. It has been studied and proven that those with lighter skin receive better employment opportunities, have higher economic status, receive shorter jail sentences, and even have more success with their love lives. Many light skins, like the Blue Veins, even have social advantages. Consider Mr. Ryder from “The Wife of His Youth” and Mr. Cicero Clayton from my short, satirical work “The Matter of Principle”. Both are members of the Blue Vein Society who have extensive social networks. Their social events are highly anticipated by all in the community. Essentially, what I’m saying is lighter skinned folk assimilate better into society; therefore, their feelings of superiority among their darker counterparts are valid. The darker folk should not necessarily feel inferior but they should aspire to be as their lighter counterparts who are socially accepted.

Zora Neale Hurston: But what is it that makes the light “right”? I do not understand. My darker brothers should not aspire to be like anyone but himself, and learn to celebrate their melanin. Are you insinuating that there are dark skinned people who are not capable of achieving all these things that light skinned people are? Or are you simply acknowledging the prejudice thinking of people who share the same skin complexion? It would truly be a shame if you and some of your brethren think like this Mr. Chesnutt. Let me remind you once more: “I am not tragically colored. There is no great sorrow dammed up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes. I do not mind at all. I do not belong to the sobbing school of Negrohood who hold that nature somehow has given them a lowdown dirty deal and whose feelings are all hurt about it” (1041).

Charles Chesnutt: In a perfect world that would be nice, Zora. All I’m trying to say is, even though we are all black, society prefers a certain amount of blackness and that’s clear to see. So to answer your question, yes I am insinuating that dark skinned people are not capable of the same achievements as light skinned people. Back in the day, the lighter society “was a lifeboat, an anchor, a bulwark and a shield-a pillar of cloud by day and of fired by night, to guide their people through social wilderness” (603). Nothing has changed today. I would say that it is almost the duty of the lighter skin to lead the way for all blacks. Essentially, it is like a game of follow the leader. The light skins are the leaders of the black community and all others who should follow in order to live successful lives. It’s quite simple.

Zora Neale Hurston: Gracious God, that is a bold statement Charles! Lets be honest now, society doesn’t want anything to do with blacks period. But of course, there’s no way in hell that there could be a society without blacks in the U.S, so they’ve decided that if they must deal with us, they prefer the light skins. Don’t you know that this prejudice just serves to further separate our community and increase the influence and privilege of the white majority? If society prefers them light skins, how do we explain the experience of that young girl Raven Simone? She could be a member of that Blue Vein Society you were talking about. She had to tan in order to make herself look darker. Your precious lighter skin people are not immune to the acts of discrimination and prejudice; having the “ideal” skin tone is not cracked up as you make it seem.

Charles Chesnutt: Oh my dearest Zora, that was only one incident, involving one girl. And what you’re failing to realize is that after she achieved a certain skin tone, she was told to stop tanning so she wouldn’t become too dark. If the movie and entertainment industry preferred women who looked “black” or darker, then why is it that lighter skinned women are still in movies at a greater ratio than their darker counterparts? The ratio of discrimination and prejudice towards light skins and dark skins are completely un-proportional. Dark skins are singled out more and there’s no denying it. So once again, my argument is valid. Although I’m presenting you these facts, I want you to realize that ultimately, “I have no race prejudice…with malice towards none, with charity for all, we must do the best we can for ourselves and those who are to follow us” (604).

Zora Neale Hurston: You certainly have “race prejudice” Charles. Maybe you just don’t realize that because it is within the same race that you belong to. This idea you hold that light skinned people assimilate better and have all these opportunities are preposterous. Instead of trying to force your ideals on others, you need to help me create unity amongst the black community. Stop perpetuating the idea of one socially acceptable way of speaking or dressing or looking. Stop seeking white approval or acceptance. Celebrate the blackness in you and encourage others to do the same. All black people have the right to achieve greatness and the “American” dream. “It is thrilling to think-to know that for any act of mine, I shall get twice as much praise or twice as much blame. It is quite exciting to hold the center of the national stage, with the spectators not knowing whether to laugh or weep” (1041).

Charles Chesnutt: Well Zora, I must admit that this has been an interesting conversation or rather a debate to have with you. I see your points and understand your side. HOWEVER, I just can’t agree with them. If we lived in a perfect world, all black people would be able to prosper and we wouldn’t hold each other back but the history of such prejudice has deep roots and we don’t live in a perfect world. I agree with your statement that such prejudice was used during times of slavery. But the white people have conditioned all of society to think and behave in a certain way and the black people are just following suit. Until I see otherwise in the media and society, I will continue with my thinking. We can always agree to disagree on this matter.

Zora Neale Hurston: Yes this conversation has surely been interesting to say the least. I was not aware that a distinguished man such as you had thoughts that aligned so closely with the whites. Although I could not change your thinking, I am glad to see that you fully understand my point (or so you say). I may have portrayed myself as this bitter black woman but I want you to know “I do not always feel colored…I feel most colored when I am thrown against a sharp white background” (1040). “Even in the helter-skelter skirmish that is my life, I have seen that the world is to the strong regardless of a little pigmentation more or less. No, I do not weep at the world- I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife” (1041).


“A Working Mother’s Guilt”…


This blog post is about a contemporary issue that is being debated all over the world. Many working mothers are criticized for going back to work for many reasons. Some believe that women are meant to be homemakers, while they’re spouses are breadwinners. Others believe that not only is it possible for women to both, but necessary for a mother to balance a career and motherhood. In this blog post, readers will be able to see both sides of this argument through a mock conversation between W.E.B. Dubois and Martin Delany.



delany_martinMartin Delany: Du Bois, I still do not understand why women are so upset? They are allowed to work and have a family! I just don’t see why they would want to work. Wouldn’t women rather be at home raising their children? Look at the current state of black families. In order for us to rise as race, we need black mothers to stay home so they can raise and teach their children to be better. In my book, The Condition, Elevation, Emigration, and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States I stress the importance of the mother child relationship, “Raise the Mothers above the level of degradation, and the offspring is elevated with them.” (Delany, 215) By having the mothers at home teaching our children, we leave less room for them to be raised in the streets. Our children need their mothers’ lessons and discipline in order to make it in America. They already are starting off with a strike against them just by the color of their skin.


dubois285 Du Bois: Martin why are you saying this! Women can have careers and still be amazing mothers. Why must she choose? Black women are resilient and beautiful creatures my friend. Even with the odds stacked against them, many black mothers still manage to be the sole financial provider of their families and make it to every recital, every parent teacher conference, and can provide food and shelter. If there is anything that I have learned from this era is that our women can do it all. In my piece The Damnation of Women, I explain how and why are women are so strong. Even back then, black women were the back bone of our communities, “Black women (and women whose grandmothers were black) are today furnishing our teachers; they are the main pillars of those social settlements which we call churches.” (Du Bois, 768) Black women built our churches and educated are children and they are still doing so even today. Even beyond this they are our lawyers, doctors, teachers, directors, and even our CEO’s.



I am not denying these fact Du Bois. However, there are many black children who are of low socioeconomic status and come from broken homes without anyone to teach them how to break away from the poverty cycle. There are black mothers doing the best that they can to raise their children on their own, but the stress of having to financially support their families is taking away from them being present as a mother. Of course our mothers to be educated, but they need to utilize that to teach our children. I believe, “ Our females must be qualified, because they are the mothers of our children.” (Delany, 215) Mothers are a child’s first teacher and should lay the foundation for them in order to prepare them for the hard real world. As we have seen, the streets have been raising our youth because of the absence of their parents. Obviously there needs to be someone providing financial support, but that’s why women have husbands. It is the man’s responsibility to take care of his family.


Du Bois:

I don’t understand how you could say that about OUR WOMEN! Even now they stand with us, advocate for us, when sometimes we as black men might not deserve it. For us to try and put a leash on their abilities and potential will only be doing a disservice for us and for future generations to come. If there is one thing that we have learned about our women is that there is no stopping them, Martin. They are force not to be trifled with. The are resilient creatures, “They represented the problem of the widow, the wife, the maiden, and the outcast.” (DuBois, 760) Even through all of that, they have risen. Our women have been raising their children and other children AND worked the plantations and the house. It is just crazy that you think that they can’t handle a 9 to 5 and be home to cook dinner and tuck their children in bed at night.



It isn’t just my viewpoint there is proof W! Look at this article I saw searching the Google. Is that what you call it? Never mind, it doesn’t matter just click the blue underlined words. I love our women, but we must focus on the men first before we can try and equal the playing field for them. We need their support more now than ever, but that is best utilized taking care of the children who happen to be the future leaders. We are doing them a disservice with both parents out of the home. You’ve seen the current state of the U.S. public education system, how can we expect them to succeed in a mess like that? Like I have said, “What we most need then, is a good business practical Education; because, the Classical and Professional education of so many of our young men…” (Delany, 215)



Let me stop you right there Martin. That is junk science and there is no way that the idea that working women are doing damage to their childs development. It has been proven that, “the future woman must have a life work and economic independence.” (Du Bois, 761) Mothers have been balancing work and family for generations. Women do not need to be confined to homemakers. They are a vital part of our worlds progression. I don’t see why they should stop just because you feel that the male ego is being bruised. Get over it. I was just reading this article I found on a progressive website, I’m sure you have never heard of it.



Sir! Why must we put that burden of career and home? Being a full time mom is a job. Women are finding it extremely difficult balancing a career and motherhood. Check out this link: It would be best if they just focused on the home and the kids. They could teach them so much and give them the upper hand as they are learning in school. As mothers are the first nurses and instructors of children; from them children consequently, get their first impressions, which being always the most lasting, should be the most correct” (Delany, 215) By starting with our young men, we can begin to lay foundation and eventually help the women gain more respect within society.



Why are you trying to perpetuate a patriarchal society? If I didn’t know I would think that you believed women were lesser beings then their male counterparts. In my essay, The Damnation of Women I wrote, “They existed not for themselves, but for men; they were named after the men to whom they were related and not after the fashion of their own souls” (Du Bois, 760) Women are just as great as men, maybe even better to be honest. Women do not exist FOR man, they exist WITH man. They are supposed to be our partners Martin and by trying to restrict their growth as people is wrong and saddening. We should be supporting them as much as we can, even if that means sharing the parental responsibilities.



You are putting words in my mouth. I do not think then men are better than women. Of course we need to support each other, “Raise the mothers above the level of degradation, and the offspring is elevated with them.” (Delany, 215) Helping our women will directly help our children. I just believe that women can do more in the home. It doesn’t matter what I think though, it seems that mothers believe that working and motherhood are something that can be balanced and will continue to do both. The least I can do is try and support them in the process.



Wow are you some what agreeing with me? That is a first! The black community is dealing with a lot of racial injustices and it seems that they are still fighting the same fight from over 300 years ago. I think that this quote is still extremely relevant today: “The uplift of women is, next to the problem of the color line and peace movement, our greatest modern cause.” (Du Bois, 769) Dealing with the mass murders of black children by the hands of the people who swore to protect and serve our communities takes priority. Mothers need our support more than ever since their children are being stolen from them left and right.


Citations for photos:

Davis, Kellie. “Getting Over Mom Guilt and Taking Care of You.” 2015. Mother Fitness. Web. 11 May 2015.


National Park Service. “W.E.B. Dubois.”National Parks Service. 11 May 2015.


U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. “VA Hudson Valley Celebrates Black History Month.” 2015. Hudson Valley Virginia Government. 11 May 2015.