Your last major assignment, inspired by the musical composition of Joel Thompson titled “The Seven Last Words of the Unarmed,” is to compile a playlist of 7 songs/links with liner notes that make clear the connection between each of your song selections and the texts and documentary that constitute the required reading & viewing for this course.  Big Assignment!
This assignment brings us back to the beginning, when I told you that the African American literary tradition privileges orality. When Norton published the first edition of  The Anthology of African American Literature in 1996, the book came with an accompanying CD containing spirituals, sermons, work songs, folklore, gospel, blues, jazz, and rap.
Think of your playlist as the accompaniment to the reading/viewing you’ve done for this course. Begin by  choosing a song (from any era, any genre, any artist/band) to complement each of the following:
· HBO’s  Unchained Memories: Readings from the Slave Narratives
· David F. Walker’s  The Life of Frederick Douglass: A Slave’s Journey
· Jacqueline Woodson’s  brown girl dreaming
· bell hooks’s  Bone Black
· Kiese Laymon’s  Heavy 
· MLK’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”
· Ta-Nehisi Coates’s  Between the World and Me
Once you’ve made your selections, look for overlap. It would be odd if there was no overlap because the texts explore common themes; if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be part of a literary tradition. But if, say, your selection for the Douglass biography would work just as well for King’s “Letter,” swap one for something else to broaden and deepen your analysis. 
Visualize your playlist as 1 wheel with 7 or 8 spokes, radiating in different directions but connected to the same hub. That hub = Black writers matter. The spokes = how and why.
Satisfied with your mix? Now  write the liner notes. State the artist, song title, and date and then make clear exactly how your choice amplifies a central note/theme of the reading/viewing. Why, in other words, is it an appropriate soundtrack to the text? Each liner note should be at least 100 words (the equivalent of a reply on a discussion board), with your total count 700-1000 words. You may find it appropriate to quote lyrics from the song or to give background on the musician/band. Longer is not  necessarily better, though.   Liner notes should be concise, packing a punch without taking up a lot of space.  Writing this way is a challenge .
When I listen to your playlist and read your liner notes, I will be looking for a clear connection of some sort. Sometimes, I think,  I would never have chosen that song for this story, but then I read the liner notes and I understand what the student was seeing/hearing/feeling because they make that clear. Now, if you pick a disco song for  Unchained Memories, I will think that’s not only odd but inappropriate. In other words, this assignment is not  anything goes. For the playlist as a whole, I will be listening for originality and variety, and in your liner notes, I will be looking for scope/depth. I will also see if you came up with an appropriate title.
Tip 1:  Do not complete this assignment in one sitting. Do it in steps and discuss with your friends, who may have ideas for songs after you describe the readings. Talking about the readings with people outside the class is an excellent way to deepen your understanding of them. Don’t be afraid to change your list as your soundtrack develops. 
Tip 2 : If you skimmed one or more of the books, resist the temptation to fake it. Last fall, for example, a few of my students chose Will Smith’s “Just the Two of Us” to accompany Coates’s  Between the World and Me. That’s not just an odd choice. The lyrics and upbeat vibe of that song fly in the face of Coates’s message to his son. I suspect those students made that selection based solely on Coates’s title and the fact that he wrote his book in the form of a letter to his son. 
This assignment is due on or before  11:59 pm on Wednesday November 23rd.


(USA, AUS, UK & CA PhD. Writers)


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