African American literature class enlightens Athens students


Photos by Aniya Nicholas

Some of the many books read and mentioned in this class. Homegoing was one of the books thoroughly read in this class with chapter presentations done by the students.

Many students dread the idea of a lecture style class, days full of notes, and nights full of homework. When students find the class that clicks, with a good amount of conversation and teachable moments, it’s like a breath of fresh air amongst a difficult day. African American Literature, is a class elective provided by Athens, where students learn and read literature about African American history and experiences. 

African American Literature is a class where students can gain more information not necessarily accessible in other classes, read books by authors never heard of before, and participate in activities that get students to think thoroughly about the topic at hand. This class allows students to express their creativity from black out poems, spoken word poetry, and many more. This is a setting that can go from fun presentations and funny conversations to deep discussions and real connections with peers. 

“My favorite part about this class is the discussions we have about topics that aren’t necessarily discussed on a daily basis or in school very often; and how we really go into depth & really get to the roots of the issue/topic [within the African American culture] at hand,” said La’kwaun Ruffin, senior.

For those who want a better understanding of the issues facing specific individuals in society, this is the class that gives that opportunity. It focuses not only on African American culture, but where the history and literature started. From slavery to racism, colorism, and many other societal issues prevalent today, this class is uncensored and tackles those things. 

“I think it’s very necessary for us to start to really dig deep in terms of this literature because to me the literature is a cornerstone into how a particular culture has evolved in the way it has,” said Tiffany Smith, African American Literature teacher.

Although the workload is not as lengthy as core classes, this class is very in-depth. Students get to ask questions without being shut down. Any topics or questions relating to a discussion are talked about no matter how difficult the topic or question is. 

“One thing about this class that really stands out to me is the atmosphere of the class as a whole and how it’s a very open place; and it’s not like ‘oh we can’t talk about this’ or ‘we can’t talk about that’. We get on the hot topics without acting like we shouldn’t be talking about it,” said Ruffin. 

Books and poems that are read in this class are not typically read in many classes. Books are compelling and give different perspectives, allowing students to look at things in a different light. Projects and presentations that many students tend to enjoy are assigned based on the literature and are given to help students understand the topic at hand without doing essays and papers. 

“I think it’s more necessary and urgent for us to not debate whether or not it should be done but to actually get to the business of really investigating historic aspects of this culture through the literature; the good, the bad, the ugly, the pretty, all of it. Any culture, you look at the literature, it’s a written history. Like for example lets look at ‘Black Boy’ by Richard Wright or slave narratives; the answers are in the text you just have to go and find it” said Smith.                        

African American literature allows for students of this specific culture to read literature by people who look like them and share the same ethnic and cultural experience as them. African American history has many gaps and is not a complete timeline; this class gives students the opportunity to dig deeper into these gaps and learn why things are the way they are. 

“I think this class is important for students to take, even if they’re not black because it really gives you a different perspective on African American culture and our experience. In school we really don’t learn about Black History, and if we do it’s the same repetitive topics and authors every single time,” said Ruffin.