A field trip to Busboys and Poets in Washington, D.C. followed by a visit to the African American Civil War Museum gave Barnesville eighth graders additional context for history lessons and related issues of race that they have explored in social studies and language arts classes.
Students recently finished an in-depth analysis of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” including discussions about racism and discrimination. They also researched the poet Langston Hughes, examining his role as an activist and the messages he wanted to convey through his poetry.
Hughes, who worked as a busboy in the 1920s, is the inspiration for the name of Busboys and Poets, an iconic community gathering place in Washington, D.C. The original flagship location in the U Street Corridor is known as “a cultural hub for artists, activists, writers, thinkers and dreamers.” Owner Andy Shallal talked to students about the neighborhood, Langston Hughes’s time there, and the importance of both the Harlem Renaissance and the Civil Rights Movement. He also talked about the role Busboys and Poets restaurants play in communities throughout the city as well as the company’s environmental sustainability efforts.
Shallal explained the “Peace and Struggle” mural he painted in the restaurant, pointing out the many notable people who have visited and signed their names. The mural depicts faces and images from throughout the civil rights movement. At the top of the mural are the words of Langston Hughes’s poem, “Let America Be America Again.”
After the visit, one student shared this brief, improvised poem: “Words are for birds. And actions cause reactions.”
Students shared their appreciation in thank you notes:
“I now think of ways I can improve my community just by doing small favors.”
“The one part about your talk that really inspired me was when you said we are the future, and we have the ability to change things for the better.”
“One of my favorite parts was when I learned that Langston Hughes was a busboy and how he got discovered.”
At the African African American Civil War Museum, a docent dressed in a Union Army uniform explained the collection, which honors the 209,145 members of the United States Colored Troops whose contributions are largely ignored in history books. He divided the group into two “regiments” for a scavenger hunt exploring the Museum’s artifacts, documents, and displays.