Black history month always prompts me to reflect on the history that is responsible for my position in society. I strive to understand what it is that we are still seeking as African Americans and, moreover, how one goes about discovering the self in the midst of it all. However, this year I was privy to how often African Americans are misunderstood. In American society the position of the African American individual is complex, and many are so far removed from black history, that the struggles African American’s face are often mind reeling for those on the margins of our culture. In 1968 poet and activist, Nikki Giovanni, was one writer who understood this, as is apparent in her poem “For Saundra”. Faced with the failure of the new frontier proposed by then president John F. Kennedy, coupled with the uproar over segregation ending, writers like Giovanni were faced with the task of using their voices in order to fight against the injustices in America.
Early in my studies I stumbled across, “I, Too” by Langston Hughes and have returned to the poem many times since; discovering each read some new emotion or reality that was not there before. In his novel, A History of Reading Alberto Manguel discusses these new discoveries, and attributes them to the development of our reading skills. At first glance the chapter, “Learning to Read” intrigued me, but I was unsure of what to expect.
As an avid reader I like to think the array of tools and resources I have learned to use throughout the years, have been sufficient in guiding me in my dissections of literature. Upon diving further into his insights, however, it is clear that learning to read is not the discussion, but rather the focus is on why we read the way we do. This explanation guided me in discovering the old habits of teachers whose primary responsibilities, consisted of educating publics in order to obtain, “a common social history of [shared] politics, philosophy, and faith.” (Manguel 83).