Three weeks ago I started incorporating “Weekly Challenges” as a side quest mechanic into my college level 11th Grade American History Class. Last week one of the challenges was creating Found Poetry. This was a miniaturized version of a larger project that I have completed in the past.
During the Great Depression the Works Progress Administration paid journalists and writers to go out into their communities and conduct interviews. The result was an amazing archive of oral histories that can be found in the Library of Congress. The LoC has organized these interviews into themes and I have asked students to investigate the “Born in Slavery” project as the create their found history. The interviews are an amazing window into the past though I do caution students to think about “ACAPs” which stands for Author, Context, Audience, and Purpose. As the read these interviews it is important to note that these slave narratives are Black Americans, mostly in the South, speaking to mostly white interviewers. The “audience” (interviewer) matters as the stories may be sanitized since this is during the time of Jim Crow.
In the larger version of the project students were expected to blend 2 or more sources together and there were rubrics and an effort at trying to “publish” in the school building. As this was supposed to be a “quick” challenge (my goal was under 20 minutes) I gave the following instructions:
“To create “Found Poetry” use only phrases from the selected source (not individual words) to create a poem about life during and after slavery. This is not a summary of the source. It is an artistic arrangement of the primary sources that may create a deeper meaning.”
I forgot a few important elements as I need them to include the primary source’s Title and Author (maybe citation) and they need to create a Title for the poem.
Four of my students chose to complete the WPA Slave Narrative Found Poetry project and I asked their permission to share them here.