8th Grade Block: The Struggle for Rights

By Kristine Deason, 8th grade class teacher

Our last history block of 8th grade was called “The Struggle for Rights.” Using this theme as a lens into the past, students honed their understanding for the multiplicity, diversity and interrelationship of life, and connected with increasing responsibility to the necessary challenges posed by the need to live with each other in genuine freedom.  Questions, more than facts, guided our discussions.  As a culminating artistic experience, students learned the long poem, “Freedom’s Plow” by Langston Hughes.  They quickly noticed that the poem did not mention many groups who have struggled and continue to struggle for their rights: indigenous people and women, among others.  In response, they composed stanzas of their own in the style of the original which they later transformed into the following group stanzas.

            We are happy to share this work with you!

Group Stanzas, Inspired by “Freedom’s Plow” by Langston Hughes

I.
A long time ago, but not too long ago
Someone said:
“He has withheld her from her rights which are given to the most ignorant and degraded men –
Both natives and foreigners. Having deprived her of this first right of a citizen he has oppressed her on all sides.”
And what Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony said was true.
It wasn’t only women who suffered.
When the whites came to America
They stole the land from the indigenous tribes,
Forcing them west, taking their lives.
Ancient ways of living were destroyed.
Indigenous people were marched
To unfamiliar lands,
Holding in their hearts the hopes and dreams
Of FREEDOM!

(by Kenzie, Caroline, Cammie, Leo)

II.
Settlers came, wanting to be master of all,
Without respect for the land and the people already there,
And drove them out from their peaceful homes.
Tribes eradicated,
Battles fought,
Blood drawn.
Few remained, none thrived.

(by Luka, Tessa, Lucien, Avi)

III.
A long time ago, but not too long ago,
The nation expanded westward, seeking a greater freedom.
The price for freedom was paid by people,
People who had nourished this land long before it became
America.
With the help of native hands, they began to grow this land.
As towns and cities grew, native people were pushed
From their homes.
From their sacrifice and the help of their hands,
We built America.
All men are created equal,
That is a great American ideal,
But the day will come when the ideal must triumph
And the American goal of centuries will be fulfilled.

(by Gus, Bodhi, Lili, Sydney, Luca)

IV.
A long time ago,
But not too long ago,
America was expanding, growing,
But at a cost.
Spreading through the land,
The colonists came,
Building houses and barns,
Communities and farms.
Spreading sickness and disease
Among the native people,
Pushing them off the land,
Slaughtering many.
The cost for America was the death of millions.
America as a whole was bloody and suffering.
People persevered, America toiled,
Survived.

(by Feodor, Aurelius, Johannes, Grace, Oona)

Below, please watch the 8th grade perform the poem “Freedom’s Plow” in the amphitheater.