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Reflective Essays from My Summer Students...

Updated: Oct 2, 2022

Back in July I shared the syllabus for my African American History II course. I posted the grades this week and here are some of the reflective essays from students:

Student A:

"Through the 5 weeks in this History Course, I’ve learned many valuable skills that I can apply later in my academics. For starters, I enjoyed having the weekly discussions for the chapters. The question although more or less the same but slightly tweaked was a powerful one. Why did the author name the chapter that specific title? To most, it might seem like a no-brainer. However, having to answer this question each time after I read a chapter helped me to understand what message was being conveyed in the passage. Normally, I either read a passage or have a short pad of notes on the side to help me remember some key points. If I were to be asked what the text was about, I would either pull up a blank face or have to refer to my notes to try and refresh my memory. However, due to this course, I was forced to really learn the importance of active reading. This skill, I will definitely take on with me to other classes. Another skill learned would have to be time-management.

This class was not one where I had to worry too much about my assignments because it was something I could easily knock out. The issue arose when I had to juggle it with the various responsibilities and commitments I had during the semester. This would leave me to pushing it to the last minute. Although I began turning in the assignments late, I at least learned how to utilize any free time I had during the week to work on small parts of the content at a time. That way, when the due date did come, I was able to quickly write out all that needed to be said and still get everything done on time .

I learned a lot from the documentary , "Black is….Black Ain’t ." One views how strongly our differences can divide us. Some have the notion that there is a specific way to behave and other believe staying true to what makes one themselves is what breaks down the barriers. There is no right or wrong way to be black.

Black Is… Black Ain’t USA (1995)-- Marlon Riggs [86 DCP]

Socially, I want to take the information I learned during this course and do better in the world. I have a better understanding of my identity as a black woman. A better understanding of the black community’s status in our American society and in the world. With this understanding, would like to help change our status and uplift us. I’m not suddenly going to become another Martin Luther King Jr and lead the black community is such a riveting way. But there are many small but impactful things I can do, I can take part of, and that I can lead to make change. Equipped with this knowledge, I plan to do just that."

Student B:

"The course was an eye-opener as it gave detailed information about the situation of the African American people. The primary source lab activity acted as a refreshing activity as it gave actual incidences of the past. Through primary sources, we could witness genuine writings published during those times.

The Film Critique assignment allowed me a chance to think and act upon it. In the film “Within Our Gates”, the reality of the human world is revealed. The movie reveals the problems of lynching, terrible education for black and so on. In short, the course has revealed many petty crucial works of African Americans. On the one hand, they were suppressed, and on the other hand, they started flourishing in art and revolting.

The course has brought emotional changes to me. While completing each project and going through the material has been an emotional ride. The materials are so detailed that they reveal many cruel acts like lynching. The course gave an insight into different emotions and gave glimpses of torture and suffering. Such information shows that people needed proper teachings as the lives of the black people were made extremely difficult. We can apply the lessons in life by not falling prey to discrimination. Discrimination is an evil which people do without knowing in some cases. Discrimination comes from prejudice —the instinct of white people against African Americans. However, the course has taught that others can learn from the course and work on a person's prejudices. Human beings are the creation of God, but they do not have the power to torture God’s creation. The experience from the course teaches us to be responsible and try to bring change to society. Society is full of evil, and African Americans have faced such evil throughout their lives. It is time for the young generation to take action against evil."

Student C:

"What I Noticed, How and Why I Felt About It in That Manner

Undertaking this course made me notice that the African American community had an indisputably rich history. The consistency by the African Americans to fight for freedom from slavery and other forms of oppression that they experienced and the fight they staged while protecting and trying to maintain their rights and liberties post the 1970s. According to most authors, this resilience was admirable for African Americans in American society. I noticed that the element of freedom for the African American was not defined as one from a mainstream community would have defined it. This is a complete replica of how the African American defined one as being black. I noticed that it took the hand of a compassionate African American to disregard the fears of losing their businesses for them to build and support the blacks towards a desirable future.

I felt that the educator sought to help the learners to synthesize the main text and the additional sources of information. The nature of assignments was common. The professor required me to read and understand the content of the source of information. From that point, it would be feasible to explain why the title of the source of information was justifiable. I felt that through this approach, I could extensively understand the content regarding African Americans, civil wars, and post-civil war life through in-depth interaction with the sources. Through this learning approach, I can now appreciate African Americans as part of the progressive American society. A perfect example of the details I gathered about African Americans in the course was that of the art industry. The African American emerges to be a very talented section of the American community. However, he faces the challenge of not easily accessing a slot to showcase their talents. They, however, persist and show their potential, which has become overwhelmingly acceptable and valuable to date.

Skills I Learned

The course has inculcated a series of skills in me. Notably, the course has primarily focused on interrogating historical sources about a specific racial group – African Americans. In doing so, I have acquired the skill of determining the best sources of information for specific circumstances. For instance, the course had an assignment that required me to determine the potential source of information readers in 2075 would use to reflect on the experiences of African American families in the late 20th century and early 21st century. My prowess in determining the potential source of information was primarily influenced by the fact that I had already undertaken a number of primary source lab assignments. The labs had inculcated in me the skill of determining the potential sources of information for different historical circumstances.

Application To My Studies

This is a skill that I believe will be instrumental in ensuring that I know what sources of information are relevant to my studies at every given time, for instance, through an in-depth reflection of the type of document or source I will be using, the author of the information, the biography or profile of the author and the targeted or intended audience of the source. Successful reflection of a source on this basis informs whether that particular source will be relevant to the subject matters in my studies. This is a skill that will be elementary to me, especially with regard to the fact that the criteria for choosing reliable sources are common. Thus, my research efforts in the future will be easier as long as I apply this skill.

One of the impacts of acquiring and using this skill is that I have learned to do things in an orderly manner. Profiling of sources means that I should take time to understand who wrote a source of information, the target audience of the source, the main speaking points, the evidence that these speaking points are relevant, and the application of the sources to historical and contemporary society. Consistent application of this skill means that one is likely to embrace such a practice even in real-life career experiences, especially when it comes to decision making. In my career, I aspire to engage in activities in such a manner that I can justify the cause of my actions and the desired outcomes after engaging in those actions. Therefore, this skill applies not only in research engagements but also in real-life experiences of synthesizing issues as they emerge and determining the best course of action.

My Understanding of My and Another Culture

The course has primarily focused on African Americans' experiences and culture. I have learned about the culture that defines African Americans and the role of cultural constraints in ensuring that they lived communally and successfully fought for their civil rights. The course also influenced my understanding of African American culture and its role in outstanding art related skills. Specifically, I have learned that African Americans are exceptionally talented in music, sports, and other art forms. The sources used in the course explain the extent to which mainstream society attempts to disregard this truth about the culture of African Americans. Their culture, in terms of the language and the foods they consume, is intensively influenced by the whites from the South. Indeed, the course has informed me extensively about African Americans."

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