Here, Huey Newton–the co-founder of the Black Panther Party–discusses feelings of solidarity with the struggles of the women’s and LGBTQ+ liberation movements, thus revealing his commitment to true societal equity before the advent of the terminology we normally use to denote intersectional movements. This unit is, at its core, about the historical movements which strove to liberate sectors of society and create a more equitable world; this text serves to help students connect these movements together and, as such, I feel that the importance of including this piece in a text set about human rights is obvious.
Huey Newton and the Black Panthers are often not discussed in any real depth in most Civil Rights units. They tend to be characterized as a fringe movement of black extremists who “go too far” in their pursuance of black liberation in comparison to the far more temperate MLK (or, at least, a white-washed version of him.) As such, Newton’s inclusion into this curriculum is likely to spark a larger classroom discussion on the legitimate use of violence in fighting oppression. Furthermore, the inclusion of this particular article is likely to engage students interested in radical politics and/or intersectional identity-based oppression.
This text received a 12th grade readability score on the Fry scale but I don’t think this is truly reflective of how approachable this text could be for some students or–quite frankly–how difficult it could be for others. To be sure, Newton uses terms which may require scaffolding to understand: I am by no means under the assumption that most students will be pre-familiarized with terms like liberation, insecurities, or coalition. With this said, I suspect that stronger readers could reasonably deduce the definitions of these terms via analyzing the context of this passage, so I don’t think they represent as big a challenge as they may ostensibly seem to be for this group of students. For other, weaker readers, this text would absolutely require scaffolding given its conceptual difficulty.
Use in and outside of class
I have little doubt that most students who are reading on grade level could reasonably surmount the obstacle that this text’s more complex terms represent should they be paired in well-designed reading groups. I think that assigning this text as part of a jigsaw activity would be most beneficial to students, though it could also reasonably be conducted as a guided reading. Though I would consider assigning this as independent work for, say, an honors class full of talented readers with a solid grasp on exploiting context clues, I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing so in classes full with weaker readers in them; without group support, the terminology in this text may prove overwhelming/frustrating for these students.
To be sure, Newton CAN be approachable for most any reader if they are given enough scaffolding in regards to the concepts and vocabulary that he uses, but this can admittedly be a pretty great deal of legwork. As such, I would assign this reading–again, probably as part of a group assignment–towards the end of a unit wherein all of these terms are covered. Doing so will make it much easier for ELLs, students with IEPs, or generally weaker readers to tackle this text.
Submitted by Mitch Linde