In Nina Simone’s first civil rights anthem, she took a shot at the (unfortunately common) argument that oppressed people ought to wait patiently for their own liberation, to “go slow” and not speak out too harshly out of fear of alienating white moderates. I insist on having this in my text set for a number of reasons. One, as a “non-text” inclusion, this activates UDL. Two, Simone’s argument is incredibly similar to the one made by MLK in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” except it’s articulated in a more approachable medium for weaker readers. Three, the “go slow” argument sucks; it sucked then, it sucks now, and I want students to understand how much it sucks. Finally, this song is a bop. This song’s relevance to my unit is clear, it’s message that human rights ought not be put “on hold” for the sake of convenience for oppressors is an essentially sound one.
By including this text, I hope to engage students who may learn best from auditory sources or may be particularly interested in music.
So, this song managed to read at a 11th/12th grade level according to the Fry scale which, to put this bluntly, is wholly laughable. I suspect that Simone’s frequent use of the word “Mississippi”–a four syllable word– and the lack of periods in the song lyrics triggered this outcome. In a qualitative sense, I am wholly confidant that this text is digestible for all of my potential students.
Use in and outside of class
This would be perfect for allowing even weaker readers and/or ESL students an opportunity to practice working independently, so I would feel totally comfortable including this text as a part of a homework assignment. Alternatively, I could incorporate it into an in-class lesson by having my students listen to it whilst reading along to the lyrics and, afterwards, conduct a primary source analysis on the text. Additionally, listening to music whilst reading along with lyrics could really help my ESL students to pair their reading skills with their listening ones, thus making this text particularly useful for them. This song could be used in a wide variety of ways and, as such, I have no doubt that I could find a place for it in my unit.
Submitted by Mitch Linde