I, Too, Am America

Book Summary: 

Collier uses Langston Hughes’ classic poem as the textual tribute to Pullman porters. The illustrations depict the dignity of the porters even while they do manual labor. The story ends with a sense that America can change in regard to racial divisions.

Langston Hughes
Bryan Collier
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Guiding Question: 

Note all of the places the American flag or portions of it shows up in this book. What do you think the illustrator is saying through the use of the flag in his illustrations? After reading the story, read the Illustrator’s Note at the end of the book. Reread the book with the understanding of why Brian Collier made his illustration decisions.

Howard’s Format from You Can’t Teach What You Don’t Know (73-85): 

Honesty- The first six illustrations of people show the work and working conditions of the African American men who worked as Pullman porters on passenger trains. The mostly white passengers are not shown. How do you think the passengers and porters interacted? The following link provides information on what Pullman porters experienced on their jobs and why they formed unions: http://old.post-gazette.com/lifestyle/20020224pullman0224fnp2.asp

Empathy- Have you thought about the people who provide services to you? How do you treat the school’s custodians, cooks, bus drivers, secretaries or those who provide other services? What do you think is the best and worst parts of their jobs? Write thank you notes and hand deliver them to each of the people that provide you services at your school.

Advocacy- Find out if there are any nearby labor unions that could talk to your class about how unions work and their importance. Becoming informed is the first step to advocacy.

Action- Choose one of the service workers you wrote a note to. Discuss with your classmates something you could all do to make a difference in that person’s life that is more than a one-time favor.