When a struggling African-American family receives a large insurance check, a conflict erupts on how to spend the money.
Below are some reading passages that we have hand picked to supplement this book. Be sure to read the passage summaries and our suggestions for instructional use.
The article “Study: ‘High Incomes Don’t Bring You Happiness’” discusses a study conducted by psychologist Daniel Kahneman and economist Angus Deaton that analyzed the impact money has on happiness.
Introduce this text after students have read Act I, Scene One, which introduces the Younger family and their cramped apartment. Ruth and Walter have a disagreement about their son’s request for 50 cents, and the adults await an insurance check that will bring them much needed money. Have students discuss how the characters anticipate that this check will change their lives. How does Walter’s attitude towards money affect his relationship with his family members?
A history of the word 'ghetto' from the early 19th century to today shows how past prejudice seeps into everyday slang.
Introduce this text after reading Act II, Scene One, in which Mama makes the down payment on a new home, and the family worries about the dangers of moving into an all-white neighborhood. Have students consider how ghettos shaped ideas of where and how people of color should live. What arguments would people in the 50s have against desegregating neighborhoods? What dangers might the Younger family face in trying to enter a white neighborhood? What advantages do they seek in moving out of the ghetto?
This article from National Public Radio reports on the life and success of Anna Julia Haywood Cooper, an American author, educator, prominent scholar, and one of the first black women to earn a doctoral degree in United States history.
Introduce this text after reading Act II, Scene Two, which begins with Beneatha and George arguing over the value of education. George sees education as only a means to get ahead, while Beneatha disagrees. Have students consider what Beneatha would have thought of Anna J. Cooper’s teaching philosophy. What strategies did Cooper use to strike a balance between different attitudes towards education in the Black community? Is there a middle ground between George and Beneatha’s perspectives?
In “Mother to Son,” a mother utilizes metaphor to communicate the struggles she's faced and the importance of perseverance to her son.
Introduce this text after reading Act II, Scene Two, in which Mama feels sorry for Walter and gives him the entire insurance check. Have students compare the speaker and son in the poem to Mama and Walter. What advice does the speaker in the poem give to her son? How does this compare to Mama’s decision to give the check to Walter? What do both mothers want their sons to understand? Does Walter understand the lessons Mama wants to impart?
In Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem “Sympathy,” Dunbar uses the experiences of a caged to bird to discuss the oppression of African Americans.
Introduce this text after reading Act II, Scene Three. The Youngers’ dream of a house is challenged by the Clybourne Park Improvement Association. Meanwhile, Walter duplicitously puts all of the insurance money into his business plan, which his business partner runs off with. Ask students to compare the characters of Mama and Walter, with their respective dreams of a house and a business, to the bird in the poem. Why does the caged bird sing, if not out of happiness? Why does Mama pursue her dream of a house? Why does Walter want his own business? Like the bird in the poem, what is the metaphorical cage that surrounds the characters in the play?
“Empowering the Black Power Movement” is an informational text that discusses how the Black Power movement emerged as a major political force for African American empowerment in the 1960s and 1970s.
Introduce this text after finishing the play. The family decides to move into their new house, despite the ire of their neighbors. Beneatha decides to marry Asagai and move to Nigeria with him to help African people. Have students consider how this play fits into the historical context of the Black Power movement. What messages of the Black Power movement are reflected in the play? How do Beneatha and Walter achieve Carmichael’s ideals of “racial pride and self-respect”? What arguments might Carmichael have against the Youngers’ decision to integrate into a white neighborhood?
In the informational text “Women in the Civil Rights Movement,” Barrett Smith discusses the role that women played in the Civil Rights Movement.
Introduce this text after finishing the play. The Younger family is sustained by three women: Mama, Ruth, and Beneatha. However, great financial power is put in the hands of Walter, to the detriment of everyone else. Ask students to compare the experience of the Younger family women to the women in the Civil Rights Movement. How do sexism and racism interact to hurt the Younger women? In what ways do the Younger women rise above these difficulties?