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Units June 28, 2024

I, Too, Am America: Blackness Is a Superpower


Lesson Summary: Students analyze and explore how Black consciousness, Black genius, and Black ways of being (historical, social, spiritual, societal practices, etc.) were foundational to the creation of the United States and the construction of American national identity. Downloads: Complete unit resources

This unit was created by 12th-grade Educators from Gahanna Lincoln High School, part of the 2021 cohort of The 1619 Project Education Network. This curricular resource outlines three extended lessons over 50 class periods. 

Objectives & Outcomes

Students will be able to…

  • Think critically about social concepts, cultural content, and historical perspectives.
  • Utilize creative, investigative methods and techniques toward enlightenment.
  • Analyze various forms of text and information, & use it to build their knowledge base as well as to persuade through writing.
  • Write intentionally with a clear purpose for specific audiences.
  • Foster humanizing relationships with peers and community members

Essential Questions

  • What does it mean to be a master manifestor?
  • What are the steps toward becoming a master manifestor?
  • What is the American Dream?
  • How do we actualize our dreams?
  • What happens to a dream deferred?
  • What do you think it means to be an American? What does it mean to be Black in America? Is there a difference and, if so, why? 
  • How have U.S. laws, policies and practices oppressed Black Americans?
  • What foundational ideas, philosophies, cultural offerings, etc. have Black Americans contributed to America? To the world?
  • How did Black Americans define themselves?
  • What methods did Black Americans use to rebel?
  • How have Black Americans fought to make the founding ideals of liberty and equality true? 
  • What does freedom mean to you? What do you need to do or change to acquire this freedom? 
  • How has your learning impacted how you identify as an American? 
  • How has your learning in this unit informed your own responsibilities in regard to your social role as a community member, American citizen, and Global citizen?

Unit Overview

This unit outline models the implementation of an extended project to support students in exploring and analyzing the ways in which Black consciousness, Black genius, and Black ways of being (historical, social, spiritual, societal practices, etc.) were foundational in the creation of the United States and the construction of American national identity. The unit is meant to empower young people to recognize the tremendous value people of African descent have always had (within and without) as well as expose them to truths and insights that help them redefine what Blackness is through their own lenses. Lastly, it is meant to inspire young people to always seek knowledge for themselves, acknowledge their own power, and recognize that there is no challenge, harsh reality, condition, distraction, or ploy that can stop their light from shining if THEY believe it cannot be dimmed.

The essay “The Idea of America” and the associated podcast by Nikole Hannah-Jones, creator of The 1619 Project, are weaved throughout the unit as touchstone pieces in order to emphasize the significance of the Project and the role Black people/people of African descent have played in shaping the U.S. Analysis of “The Idea of America” is interwoven with literary texts, including poetry, song lyrics, and prose.

Throughout the course and unit, students will write/produce analysis responses, creative prose, poetry, persuasive writings, and original performance pieces as forms of assessment as they engage with Black cultural and historical content. Students can reflect on life experiences in their writing but will be encouraged to focus not on just what others have done to them, but on what they can do for themselves. Students will address the history of the past for it is necessary to know the pathway toward the future, but will also connect its lessons to the relevant experiences of the present. In this act, students will strengthen their endurance towards creating the realities they wish to experience in the present and future.

This unit aims to…

  • Empower the literacy practices of critical thinking, reading and writing, through exposure to Black cultural perspectives, experiences and histories.
  • Inspire students to produce works discussing and analyzing the Black and/or American experience in the U.S. as well as issues of racial and social inequality.

This classroom engages in meditations and/or pre-lessons as entries into lessons each day. The unit writer recommends these practices as a way to engage students’ minds, focus them on themes, and empower them to build their social emotional learning skills. Some meditations and pre-lessons are included in the unit outline as models. Other lessons will require teacher created entry points and introductions.

At the end of this unit, students should be able to answer…

  • Has your idea of America changed? In what ways? 
  • What is your superpower? 
  • What do you think is an important contribution your generation (and/or you personally) can/should make to America?

Performance Tasks


In her implementation of this unit, the unit writer had students regularly engage in pre-lessons in order to capture their engagement and get them focused on the themes, concepts, and main ideas she wanted them to grasp as they engaged in the work. She designed these pre-lessons to stimulate critical thinking skills and give students room to demonstrate their opinions and perspectives. The pre-lessons also served as a quick way to assess students’ understanding and accountability, and monitor their daily work ethic.

Detailed Annotations

The unit writer required students to complete detailed annotations for each reading. These detailed annotations were used as a tool for assessing students’ analysis and understanding of the reading. The unit writer engaged in all classroom assignments and activities alongside her students. She used her own detailed annotations along with her students’ annotations to determine the grading expectations for each assignment.

PMP (Purpose | Message | Perspective) Critical Thinking Muscle Exercises

The unit writer developed these exercises to aid students in their discussion of the context of the various poems and songs integrated in this unit. The PMP exercise consists of the following critical thinking questions:

  • Who wrote this piece?
  • When was this piece written?
  • What is the message(s) of the piece?
  • Who is the intended audience for the piece? 
  • Why is this piece significant/relevant?

Writing and Creative Activities

These creative tasks functioned as an assessment of how students made personal connections to their learning.

What Is Your Superpower? Writing Activity

This activity is divided into two parts.

Part 1: Students identify…

  • What is/are your superpowers?
  • How has your culture/identity contributed to the development of your superpowers?
  • What have you learned in this unit that has provided new insights on the purpose and significance of your superpowers? 
  • How can your superpowers benefit you and/or others? 
  • How do you plan to utilize them in the future?

Part 2: Students develop and produce a product that showcases their superpowers. This will also demonstrate how they applied the knowledge gained during their engagement with the unit. 

What they do is up to them.

Some possibilities include a podcast, essay, digital storytelling, animation, website creation, original artwork, or original poetry.

Unit Reflection Paragraph

The unit writer designed this assignment to give students space to reflect on their learning experience with this unit plan and to gain insight on how the unit could be improved. Students crafted reflections that responded to the following prompts:   

  • Share your experience with this unit. 
  • What did you like? 
  • What did you not like? 
  • What were your favorite parts/readings/activities/resources? 
  • What did you learn?

‘I, Too, Am America: Blackness is a Superpower’ Post-Unit Writing Activity

The unit writer designed this activity to aid students in tracking their learning and the evolution of their thinking over the course of this unit. In this exercise, students respond to the same questions posed in the ‘I, Too, Am America: Blackness is a Superpower’ Unit Pre-Writing Activity. Students are to compare their responses from the Pre-Writing Activity to their responses from the Post-Unit Writing Activity and discuss any changes and continuities found within them. 

  • What do you think it means to be an American? Has your idea of America changed? In what ways? 
  • Share an adjective (word or phrase naming an attribute/ descriptor) and write a sentence showcasing how(in what way) that adjective represents American culture. 
  • What does it mean to be Black in America? 
  • Share an adjective (word or phrase naming an attribute/ descriptor) and write a sentence showcasing how (in what way) that adjective represents the Black experience in America


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