13th and Locking Up Our Own: Argument, Voice, and Perspective in Two Modern Meditations on Mass Incarceration

byRobert M. Schwartz

Our early society flourished in a rich economy void of the burden of having to pay for its labor. This country, for all its booming rhetoric of freedom, would not be powerful enough to assert such rhetoric if not for its first enslaving people in bonds. Some would argue that these bonds were never broken, simply recast overtime to their current iteration: bars. This curricular unit is meant to educate students about those who make said arguments, while studying their rhetorical styles. The Ava Duverney film 13th argues that slavery was never abolished, simply redesigned over time, through Jim Crow, and now into modern mass incarceration which to this day relegates people of color in this country in far too large a number to continued unpaid servitude and bondage. Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America by James Forman, Jr. uses our nation’s capital as a backdrop to explore the history of crime in a largely black populated city along with the responses by prominent black and white police and politicians that is an insider’s view of the evolution of criminal justice to its current state. Through these important works, students will analyze voice, perspective and argument in writing and film, through work with vital and engaging information about mass incarceration and its evolution and consequences.

(Developed for African American History and Literature, grades 11-12; recommended for English and History, grades 11-12)

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