Frederick Douglass: Activist and Autobiographer

Last November, we published a post addressing the controversies associated with Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. A recent comment pointed out that Huck’s views on slavery are those of the dominant society of the time. Because the post featured a letter from Frederick Douglass as a supplement to the novel, the commenter wondered “why not present the experiences and views of the oppressed rather than the oppressor?” That struck me as an intriguing question, so here are a few places to start exploring those views and experiences with your students.

See You at NCTE: Resources for English Teachers from the Library of Congress

This year’s NCTE conference: Story as the Landscape of Knowing will take place November 20-23 in our hometown, Washington, DC. You will find us at Booth numbers 236 and 238 in the exhibit hall Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The Teachers Page from the Library of Congress offers ideas and resources for English educators. We have rounded up a few of our favorites.

Storytelling and Songwriting: Making Connections through Primary Sources

In July 2014, when Librarian of Congress James H. Billington announced that Billy Joel would receive the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, he described Joel as being, “a storyteller of the highest order.”

Talented songwriters can be great storytellers! Not only do their songs often include elements of a short story, but they do so in ways that listeners can easily imagine and relate to.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Fugitive Slave Act

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe was widely influential when it was published in 1852. The Library’s “Sources and Strategies” article in the May 2014 issue of Social Education, the journal of NCSS, discusses the influence of the novel. Perhaps just as important as its effect, however, was Stowe’s original impetus for writing it.

Kate DiCamillo: Stories Connect Us

The role of the Ambassador is to raise “national awareness of the importance of young people’s literature as it relates to lifelong literacy, education and the development and betterment of the lives of young people.” DiCamillo, the fourth to hold this position, has chosen “Stories Connect Us” as her theme, saying “When we read together, we connect. Together, we see the world. Together, we see each other.”

Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn: Controversy at the Heart of a Classic

The book has also appeared on the AP Literature and Composition test fifteen times between 1980 and 2013. Despite the controversies, the novel has remained a staple in high school literature study because teachers seek to engage students with texts that provoke discussion and questions. Primary sources from the Library of Congress can help deepen students’ thinking around the issues central to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and other literary works.