by Claude McKay
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.
Out Where the West Begins
- Arthur Chapman
Arthur Chapman was an American journalist who wrote the imagery-laden poem “Out Where The West Begins” in 1917, in response to some Western governors who were having a dispute over which American states should be considered “the West.”Pair Claude McKay's "America" with Chapman's "Out Where the West Begins" and have students compare the two poems' depictions of the same country. How do the tones differ? How does the imagery differ? What do they have in common? How does each poet's point of view influence the work's central ideas?
- 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 “America” with “Sonnet” and ask students to compare the message of two sonnets by these contemporaries.
We Wear the Mask
- Paul Laurence Dunbar
Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) was an influential African-American poet during the early twentieth century. He was the son of freed slaves and was a friend of Frederick Douglass. In “We Wear the Mask” (1896), Dunbar introduces the idea of hiding behind a metaphorical mask.Pair “We Wear the Mask” with “America,” and ask students compare how this theme develops in each text.
If We Must Die
- Claude McKay
Claude McKay (1889-1948) was a Jamaican-American writer and poet who was a seminal figure during the Harlem Renaissance. In this poem, McKay discusses facing death and other obstacles with courage and dignity, and reflects upon his perspective on the black experience during early 20th century America.Pair “America” with “If We Must Die,” and ask students to compare McKay’s tone in each text.
- Claude McKay
Claude McKay was a civil rights activist and Jamaican American writer. In “On Broadway” (1922), a speaker longingly looks at a bright city scene from which he feels isolated.Pair “On Broadway” with “America” and ask students to compare how the themes of isolation or exclusion are developed in each text.
Close Calls in U.S. Election History
- Jessica McBirney
This informational text describes some close and controversial elections in U.S. history.Pair Claude McKay’s poem “America” with the informational text “Close Calls in U.S. Election History.” The United States is complicated. McKay has mixed feelings about his country because of prejudice. “Close Calls” identifies times where U.S. democracy looks imperfect or controversial. What makes America unique and complicated?
The Harlem Renaissance
- Jessica McBirney
In the informational text “The Harlem Renaissance,” Jessica McBirney discusses how the movement developed and the effect it had on America.Pair “The Harlem Renaissance” with “America” and ask students to discuss some of the obstacles that African Americans encountered during this time. How does the poem portray the conflicting experiences African Americans had during the Harlem Renaissance?
Letter from Birmingham Jail
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
In the famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” Martin Luther King, Jr., outlines his nonviolence approach to addressing injustice while responding to criticism.Pair “America” with “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and ask students to consider how each text speaks to the writer’s relationship with America and the country’s promises. Compare the imagery in each text and discuss how the imagery develops the tone and meaning in each text. How do both texts contribute to students’ understanding of the 20th century African American experience and perspectives on the United States?
- J. Patrick Lewis
In “The Journalist,” a Chinese American journalist discusses how she uses her platform to address injustices in America.Pair “America” with “The Journalist,” and ask students to discuss how the themes of inequality are developed in each text. How do the speakers in each poem perceive America? How does each speaker decide to deal with their feelings about America?
- Wole Soyinka
In Wole Soyinka’s poem “Telephone Conversation” the speaker is asked to disclose how dark they are when they attempt to rent an apartment.Pair “America” with “Telephone Conversation” and ask students to compare the speakers’ experiences in the two poems. How do the speakers describe their relationship with the environment and the people around them? How do they respond to the obstacles they face in their lives?
To One Coming North
- Claude McKay
In Claude McKay’s poem “To One Coming North,” a speaker describes coming north and their feelings about their old home.Pair “America” with “To One Coming North” and ask students to compare the speakers’ perspectives on where they live. How does the speaker feel about America in the poem “America”? How does this compare to the speaker’s feelings about the North in “To One Coming North”? How do both speakers express a sense of being conflicted?
- Joseph Bruchac
In Joseph Bruchac’s poem “Ellis Island,” a speaker discusses their ancestors who came to America through Ellis Island.Pair “America” with “Ellis Island” and ask students to discuss the both speakers’ conflicted feelings about America. Why does the speaker in “America” have conflicted feelings about living in America? How does this compare to the speaker’s conflicted feelings about America’s history in “Ellis Island”?
- Langston Hughes
In Langston Hughes’ poem “I, Too,” a speaker describes his experience with discrimination and his hope for equality in America in the future.Pair “America” with “I, Too” and ask students to discuss how the two poems portray America. How are the speakers in the poem treated in America? How does the tone used in “America” compare to “I, Too”? How does tone affect the overall themes of the two poems?
This is Not Who We Are
- Naomi Shihab Nye
In “This is Not Who We Are,” Naomi Shihab Nye reflects on her cultural identity as an Arab-American.Pair “America” with “This is Not Who We Are” and ask students to discuss people’s personal experiences in America. Why does Claude McKay have mixed feelings about America? In the essay, Naomi Shihab Nye discusses her complicated relationship with her culture in America. Why do students think some Arab-Americans might feel confused or sad right now?