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Teaching Multicultural Literature : A Workshop for the Middle Grades
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Workshop 6: Historical and Cultural Context - Langston Hughes and Christopher Moore
Overview
Authors and Literary Works
Langston Hughes
Biography
Work
Christopher Moore
Biography
Work
Interview
Joyce Hansen/ Gary McGowan
Biography
Work
Barbara Chase-Riboud
Biography
Work
Key References
Video Summary
Teaching Strategies
Commentary
Student Work
Resources
Interactive Workbook -- Explore two poems using strategies from these workshops. Go.
Channel-Talk -- Share your views on the discussion board. Go.


Authors and Literary Works
Biography

In Breaking Ground, Breaking Silence, Joyce Hansen and Gary McGowan have intricately constructed the story of the unearthing of Lower Manhattan's African Burial Ground that had been closed and forgotten for over 200 years. "Drawing on a variety of scholarly resources and primary source documents, Hansen and McGowan relate what is known about the experiences of the earliest members of the black community in Manhattan," says a review in School Library Journal. "Through black-and-white photographs of uncovered artifacts and reproductions of archival records and maps, a fascinating picture emerges."

Joyce Hansen and Gary McGowan were admirably qualified to collaborate on telling this important story.

A native New Yorker, Joyce Hansen is a writer who grew up in the Bronx and spent 22 years teaching in the New York City public schools. Breaking Ground, Breaking Silence is the fourth of her books to be named a Coretta Scott King Honor Book. In the book Hansen notes that "When news of the excavation of an eighteenth-century burial ground for people of African descent in New York City spread to the general public, people realized that this was a monumental discovery that would offer us a chance to reclaim a lost history."

"I write about what I know and what moves me deeply," says Hansen. "My love of books and writing came from my mother, who wanted to be a journalist... From my father I learned how to tell stories. He entertained my brothers and me with stories about his boyhood in the West Indies and his experiences as a young man in the Harlem of the 1920s and '30s."

Hansen has written extensively for young people, both fiction and nonfiction. Women of Hope, a collection of short biographies of African American women, won an award as a Notable Children's Trade Book in the field of Social Studies. Five of the author's other books have also won this award. Hansen's works have been honored as ALA Notable Books as well.

Joyce Hansen believes that those who write for young people have "a special responsibility because the word is so strong. We must use our words to help our children acquired a richness of soul and spirit, so that perhaps one fine day we will learn to live with ourselves and one another in peace and harmony."

Gary McGowan was the head conservator of the team that studied the African Burial Ground. President and Principal Conservator at Cultural Preservation and Restoration, he has extensive experience in the field, including prehistoric and historic sites in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.

McGowan developed, equipped, and directed the conservation of the cultural materials recovered from the 18th-century African Burial Ground and 19th-century Five Points sites. He has conserved earthen sculpted faces from a Syracuse church that was a documented stop on the Underground Railroad. The faces are believed to have been created by slaves fleeing to Canada.

Among the most important finds from the African Burial Ground were a woman with filed teeth buried with a girdle of beads and a mother with her infant nestled in the crook of her arm. The team that McGowan headed worked with great care to ensure that the remains and artifacts were preserved in the best possible condition. This enabled the anthropologists and historians to glean a great deal of important information from this very rich site.

Gary McGowan is President of the New York Regional Association of Conservation. He has received the distinction of Professional Associate within the American Institute for Conversation of Historic and Artistic Works.

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