by Paul Laurence Dunbar
We've identified these texts as great options for text pairings based on similar themes, literary devices, topic, or writing style. Supplement your lesson with one or more of these options and challenge students to compare and contrast the texts. To assign a paired text, click on the text to go to its page and click the "Assign Text" button there.
- James Weldon Johnson
James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) was an American writer and civil rights activist, and served a vital role in the National Association for the advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In this poem, Johnson urges his heart to "be brave."Pair these poems and have students compare the structure and message of each work.
- Claude McKay
Festus Claudius “Claude” McKay (1889-1948) was a Jamaican-American novelist and poet who played an important role in the Harlem Renaissance. In this sonnet, the speaker reveals his mixed feelings about living in "the land of the free."Pair “We Wear the Mask” with “America,” and ask students compare how this theme develops in each text.
Mother to Son
- Langston Hughes
In “Mother to Son,” a mother utilizes metaphor to communicate the struggles she's faced and the importance of perseverance to her son.Pair "We Wear the Mask" with "Mother to Son"and ask students how each poem uses metaphor to discuss resilience in the face of adversity. This pairing may also be used to discuss themes in African-American literature at the turn of the twentieth century.
The Faith Cure Man
- Paul Laurence Dunbar
In this early 20th-century story, a poor mother refuses to give up on her ailing daughter, and turns to a spiritual healer when a doctor tells her there is nothing left to do.Compare Dunbar’s famous poem with “The Faith Cure Man” to drive a classroom discussion about African-American themes in literature at the turn of the twentieth century. What messages did Paul Laurence Dunbar bring to the fore with his writing?
This informational text details the controversial policies of Reconstruction after the American Civil War.Pair “Reconstruction” with “We Wear the Mask” and ask students to discuss the emotional impact of Reconstruction era policies on African American identities.
Frederick Douglass: A Biography
- National Park Service
This biography of Frederick Douglass provides an overview of his life and work as an abolitionist.Pair “Frederick Douglass: A Biography” with “We Wear the Mask” and ask students to discuss when Douglass might have worn “the mask” in his life, and to what extent this could have contributed to his success.
- Paul Laurence Dunbar
In Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem “Sympathy,” Dunbar uses the experiences of a caged to bird to discuss the oppression of African Americans.Pair “We Wear the Mask” with “Sympathy” and ask students to discuss the similar themes of these two poems by Paul Laurence Dunbar. How does Dunbar use figurative language to explore these themes?
- Nikki Grimes
In Nikki Grimes’ poem “Jabari Unmasked,” a speaker describes hiding their identity from the world.Pair “We Wear the Mask” with “Jabari Unmasked” and ask students to discuss Nikki Grimes’s use of the “Golden Shovel” poetic form. How does Grimes’ use of the first stanza of Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem contribute to “Jabari Unmasked”? Are the speakers of the two poems wearing masks for the same reason? Why or why not? How do the two poems explore racial identity?
Henry Adams’ Testimony Before Congress
- Henry Adams
In “Henry Adams’ Testimony Before Congress,” a person who was freed from slavery discusses his experiences working as a sharecropper following the Civil War.Pair “We Wear the Mask” with “Henry Adams’ Testimony Before Congress” and ask students to discuss how both texts portray a post-Civil War America. How do Paul Laurence Dunbar and Henry Adams describe the experiences of Africans Americans following the Civil War? Do students think that Adams also wore a “mask”? Why or why not?
Plessy vs. Ferguson
- Jessica McBirney
In the informational text “Plessy v. Ferguson,” Jessica McBirney discusses how the Plessy v. Ferguson decision impacted racial segregation in the United States.Pair “We Wear the Masks” with “Plessy v. Ferguson” to help students explore what life in America was like for African Americans after the Civil War. Ask students to discuss why African Americans would feel compelled to wear “masks” in a post-Civil War America. How do both texts explore how African Americans were treated if they expressed the anger or disappointment they felt for America?