Guidelines: When writing the essay, please observe the following guidelines. Submit the essay using the space provided in the online form to upload your essay.
- Limit the length to approximately 750-1000 words.
- Be sure to include an essay title and your name in the text boxes provided for these in the online form. This will ensure that when your essay is printed out, it will be identified as yours; otherwise, the essay will appear to have no author or title.
- Compose the essay without any assistance, either in the form of other people or outside commentary. You cannot use the web or the library for research. You are, however, permitted to use a dictionary (online or paper) for words which are unfamiliar to you. And you can use reference tools (online or otherwise) to identify names which you don’t recognize. Your best interests will be served only if the Writing Program can make an honest appraisal of how you write on your own. This will be your first opportunity to put Haverford’s Honor Code into practice.
Assignment: Read James Baldwin’s “If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is”?
James Baldwin, writing in 1979 for The New York Times, defends Black English and anticipates what has become known as the “linguistic justice movement” or a respect for the varieties of English that is spoken, read and written, in particular for what he identifies as Black English. What does he claim for this language? What can we learn from his argument? And what might be the implications of this argument for the practice of a “standard” English?
Drawing upon the essay as evidence, construct a well-structured argument of approximately 750-1000 words that responds to the prompt. You need not nor should you simply answer each of the above questions one after another: these questions are only meant to help you begin to formulate a thoughtful, clear and cogent response to the assignment.
CITATION: There are no page numbers for this essay, which originally appeared as an Op-Ed in the Times. All you need provide as documentation is a single footnote or single Works Cited entry with the author’s name, title of the essay, the newspaper, the date, and the online URL.
When evaluating your essay, Writing Program faculty will draw upon the following criteria:
- Engagement and reasoning: How well do you demonstrate an understanding of the argument while still establishing and supporting your own position?
- Structure and style: Does the organization help or hinder readers? Is there enough control of particular sentences to allow us to follow your reasoning?
Any questions, please contact Prof. dsherman [at] haverford.edu (Debora Sherman), Director of College Writing.