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2016 All School Read: Assignment for Students

Details of the Assignment

Both high school and junior school students will have an assignment that is due TO THEIR ADVISOR the first regular day of school (MONDAY, AUGUST 22, 2016).

Students may choose from three options:

1.  A written response, chosen from the topics below (note the directions)

2.  An artistic response:  In a drawing, painting, collage, or sculpture, depict a motif or theme in the book that shows you have read the story closely [note: no photographs unless you are crafting a carefully created collage]. Your response cannot be a simple sketch on a sheet of printer or notebook paper.  Your response should show the creative process that led to your artwork. Include a 200-word typed artist's statement which describes the ideas or conflicts that inspired you to generate this work. 

3.  A collaborative response (a video that is filmed, edited, and posted to YouTube in a group of four or fewer; you will also turn in your script)  



Written Response Questions

Directions:  Write a two-page, double-spaced, 12-point font, multi-paragraph essay (approximately 600 words) on one of the following topics.  Include a title page.

Note:  Strong Inside has three helpful appendices in the back: (1) a section of notes documenting where quotes originated; (2) a bibliography; and (3) a very helpful index that can guide students to key parts of the book and quotations that are relevant to the following topics. 

1.  Studying Perry Wallace’s north Nashville roots is important to appreciating his journey from a segregated working-class neighborhood to teaching law at American University in Washington, D.C.  Write an essay that describes Wallace’s family life and comments upon his segregated society from which he learned many of his core values. 

           Along with his family life, consider these important institutions and historical figures that influenced African Americans around Tennessee:  Fisk University and its significance to the Civil Rights Movement; Tennessee A&I (Agricultural and Industrial, now TSU) and its President Walter Davis; TSU coach Ed Temple and the Tigerbelles; TSU football coaches Henry Kean, Howard Gentry, and John Merritt; TSU basketball coach John McClendon; Pearl High and coaches Cornelius Ridley and William Gupton. Include 3-4 quotations.

2.  Write an essay that explains the background of Nashville’s first integrated basketball game between Pearl High and Father Ryan.  First explain the national context with President Johnson’s envisioning a “Great Society.”  Then focus on the history of Ryan Coach Bill Derrick’s decision to call Coach Cornelius Ridley of Pearl High to set up this momentous game at the Municipal Auditorium.  Include other local events that revealed the gradual integration of Nashville. Incorporate 3-4 quotations that reveal the stereotypes and the atmosphere during these fascinating weeks in Nashville history.    

3.  Write an essay that recounts the history of civil rights legend James Lawson who was expelled from Vanderbilt for organizing the sit-ins at whites-only lunch counters in February 1960.  Include references to the roles of Vanderbilt’s Board of Trust, the undergraduate senate, and the editors of The Vanderbilt Hustler.  Conclude your answer by speculating what the Lawson episode did to begin Vanderbilt’s repairing its image as a non-progressive university.  Incorporate 3-4 quotations that characterize James Lawson and the history of Vanderbilt’s reluctance to desegregate.

4.        “That was the northern thing, more unapologetic, more in your face,” Wallace said of [Godfrey] Dillard’s [playing] style.  “I came from a southern environment and you just didn’t think a lot of thoughts like that – not out loud” (142).  

           “Godfrey Dillard,” said Perry Wallace, “was our Emmett Till” (121).

           If not for a devastating knee injury, Godfrey Dillard from Detroit, Michigan, would have broken the SEC basketball color barrier at Vanderbilt â€‹alongside Perry Wallace. Write an essay that explains the significance of Dillard’s story to our understanding of the challenges, disappointments, and racist encounters involved in integrating a basketball team and a private Southern university in the 1960s. Discuss Dillard’s basketball prowess and the way it contradicted traditional basketball technique; characterize his personality and how it clashed with campus officials; and explain his relationship with Perry Wallace, who, though a friend, conducted himself differently around whites than Dillard did. Incorporate 3-4 quotations.

5.   Characterize Vanderbilt University before integration and compare it to the school we now see on West End.  Along with outlining the cruelties that Perry Wallace endured from racist students, review the comments from university officials and alumni about how “intellectually uncurious” (122) was the stereotypical Vanderbilt undergraduate.  Conclude your answer with a comparison between Vanderbilt of the 1960s and private high schools today that are pursuing a diverse student community by recruiting minority students. Incorporate 3-4 quotations.

6.  “A university is not a university,” said Chancellor Alexander Head, “unless it keeps itself relevant to the society it serves” (130).

           Explain Chancellor Alexander Heard’s impact on the desegregation of Vanderbilt and on building Vanderbilt into a prestigious modern university.  Your answer should outline the challenges Heard faced and his strategies for moving Vanderbilt from a complacent “Southern finishing school” (53) to a progressive university. Incorporate 3-4 quotations.

7.   “You’re the only black in class,” said Perry Wallace, “everybody knows you’re the only black in the class . . . They start talking about slavery or something, and the focus was on you.  You were the representative of your race.  If you raise your hand, you better damn well know the answer . . . and [if] your professor criticizes your answer, you internalized the criticism in a personal way . . . that kind of isolation was depressing” (133).

           Discuss the different kinds of isolation that Perry Wallace experienced at Vanderbilt and the effect it had on him.  Bring into your response your thoughts on ways that students today—at Vanderbilt or other colleges or high schools—might experience moments of isolation caused by race or other factors. Incorporate 3-4 quotations.

8.  Research two newspaper articles, one from The Vanderbilt Hustler (Paul Kurtz’s April 25, 1967, editorial “Trouble in Paradise” from his “From the Pressbox” column), and the other from The Tennessean (Frank Southerland’s March 9, 1970, article “Perry Wallace Spent 4 Lonely Years at Vanderbilt”). 

           Compare these two articles and comment on what they divulge about Perry Wallace’s experience and the reactions these articles received.

9.   On February 21, 2004, Perry Wallace returned to Vanderbilt for his jersey retirement ceremony (number 25).  At the ceremony he gave a speech quoted in the middle of page 412.  Keeping these comments in mind and using your knowledge of Wallace and the Civil Rights Movement, write an essay that depicts the kind of civil rights leader Wallace wanted to be.  Compare him to other civil rights leaders who were older, more vocal, and more politically-minded than Wallace was during the 1960s.  Also consider Wallace’s feelings about awards he received at Vanderbilt (awards often given to civil rights heroes) and why he was uncomfortable winning these awards (p.347). Incorporate 3-4 quotations or incidents that substantiate the kind of leader Wallace perceives himself to be. 

10.  Write an essay that poses some questions that you would like to ask Perry Wallace and what you believe his answers might be.  Substantiate the answers you propose by referring to various comments, observations, and episodes in the book.  Offer some reasons why these questions and answers are important for us to hear today.

11.  “The Raven” prank that some insensitive students pulled on Perry Wallace and Walter Murray their junior year hurt them in ways of which the white pranksters were ignorant.  Discuss the scope and ramifications of this incident and then explain the dangers of pranks in a diverse society.  Conclude your answer with some reflections on times in your own life when you thought that you were pulling a playful prank but were actually being a kind of bully. Incorporate 3-4 quotations.

12.  During Perry Wallace’s sophomore year, he was invited to speak at Vanderbilt’s Human Relations Council.  Wallace typed a seven-page script and delivered it with what he said was “raw emotion.”  After rereading Chapter 23, write an essay that explains the key points in Wallace’s message to the council.  Quote 3-4 telling passages that set up the various observations, laments, and solutions Wallace had to offer to a private university seeking to recruit more black students and athletes. Conclude your response by imagining what you think Perry Wallace would say to many independent schools today which are recruiting black students to diversify their communities.

13.  Wallace recalls the four days that Vanderbilt first traveled to Mississippi to play Ole Miss and Mississippi State.  He called this time “Four Days in Hell.”  Write an essay that explains the various levels of anxiety and fear (caused by both his black community and white racists) that Perry Wallace felt during this most influential and trying time. Include 3-4 quotations.