Poetry to Celebrate Inauguration and Black History Month
Presidio Hill was founded by poet/activists in 1918, and students continue to value and celebrate diversity and the arts and work toward a more equitable world, even more than 100 years since our founding.
In 4th grade, PHS students learned about the six times in history a president chose to have a poet read an inaugural poem, including Amanda Gorman's historic first on Wednesday, January 20th, at President Biden's inauguration. Students explored why they think a president would choose to have a poet read a poem at an inauguration as well as what is an inaugural poem's general purpose and audience. Students analyzed all six poems and how the poets choose to address American identity–who we are as a people and who we wish to be. Fourth Grade poets then wrote their own inaugural poems.
This lesson tied both to a previous study on Martin Luther King Junior's "I Have A Dream Speech" which inspired the fourth graders to create activist posters, as well as to an upcoming unit on Black Poets for Black History Month.
In January, fourth grade activists studied the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In an article for Ebony magazine in March of 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., stated, “World peace through nonviolent means is neither absurd nor unattainable. All other methods have failed.” Students explored Dr. King’s philosophy of nonviolence in action through an animated version of his “I Have a Dream Speech” titled “Freedom’s Ring” and unpacked the power of words to resist racial injustices and inspire change. Students also closely examined photographs from the civil rights period, identifying elements of the principles of nonviolent resistance to racism in each photo. Students also made connections to the violent mob that stormed the U.S. capitol on January 6th, and noted the link between the racism King resisted and the violence witnessed at the Capitol.
Students then worked together to identify current injustices or inequalities that they see happening in the world or their community such as climate change, homelessness and lack of affordable housing for all, disparities in education, and discrimination against women. To take action against these current injustices fourth grade activists created a activist posters representing a form of freedom that has yet to be realized in America. They designed their protest posters while listening to the music from Soundtrack for a Revolution, the music and freedom songs at the heart of the Civil Rights Movement.
Students will begin the upcoming unit Black Poets for Black History Month by reading Langston Hughes's poem titled, "Let America be America Again." Though not officially an inaugural poem, the poem responds to and complements the inaugural poems and historical speeches about how different people view America and their own identity as an American.
See some student inauguration poetry examples below: