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FCPS Investigating Alleged Racial Remarks by Marshall Teacher

African American student allegedly told to read a poem ‘blacker.’

Fairfax County Public Schools officials are investigating allegations from a that a teacher used a racial remark toward him during a class this month.

Jordan Shumate, a freshman at the school, alleged that Marilyn Bart directed him to read a poem “blacker,” according to a Washington Post story. Shumate, an African American, was reading a poem by Langston Hughes when Bart allegedly directed him to read the poem blacker and then allegedly said “I thought you were black,” according to the Washington Post. He told his mother about the allegation this week.

Principal Jay Pearson said the school is taking the allegations seriously and confirmed the ongoing investigation, according to the Washington Post.

Shumate alleged when he stopped reading the poem, Bart continued and read it using a stereotypical voice of a slave, according to the Washington Post.

When Shumate allegedly asked Bart if she thought all black people spoke that way, he was reprimanded for speaking out of turn and told to sit down, according to the Washington Post.

Bart has been an FCPS teacher since 1990.

Groovis Maximus March 19, 2012 at 03:44 PM
From the Smithsonian Folkways website on "Music in Poetry": "The first to recognize the potential of the blues as written poetry was Langston Hughes, who was born in Joplin, Missouri, in 1902. When he was eleven years old, he heard the blues coming from an orchestra of blind musicians on Independence Avenue in Kansas City. Hughes moved to the East Coast in 1921 and heard the music again, in clubs on Lenox Avenue in Harlem, New York, and 7th Street in Washington, D.C. 'I tried to write poems like the songs they sang on 7th Street,' he remembered in his autobiography The Big Sea. Those songs 'had the pulse beat of the people who keep on going.' The blues stanza allowed Hughes to convey the African American experience in people's own vernacular language." No comment on how Ms. Bart may have spoken to the student - but it seems appropriate to ask a student to "perform" the poetry if it fits with what the author was trying to convey.
Motown1911 March 19, 2012 at 04:01 PM
@Jason - If your logic follows, then why did the teacher say "I thought you were black"? What does that have to do with the reading of the poem? Further, you don't have all the facts. The same teacher had a slide that states all black people like grape soda and rap music. She also asked Jordan to "rap" a Tupac poem and asked him to explain "creole" when the class was reading "A Lesson Before Dying". Finally, the teacher has refused to meet with Jordan's mom to discuss the issue. The school needs to take disciplinary steps up to and including termination.
kimba March 19, 2012 at 07:18 PM
I think it oddly coincidental that the teacher is retiring; that she would do something, regardless of her race, so significantly questionable. If she wanted to convey the author's original intent, that should have been FIRST explained to students, AFTER reading the bio of the author. Yes, this is a new, politically correct world now, but KNOWING this, WE ALL have to make efforts not to single ANY person out in a disparaging manner. Period. Shame on you Ms. Bart...you taught a lesson all right, but not the right one. What a sad end to a career!
Groovis Maximus March 19, 2012 at 07:48 PM
Actually, this whole story is weirdly ironic. The poem is about how an African American man refuses to pay the rent until his slumlord landlord fixes up the house. After an argument (which begins when the slumlord starts making threats), the police are called and the tenant ends up in jail. The poem ends with headlines in the press: "Man threatens landlord, tenant held no bail...." So the headlines in the press completely mischaracterized the whole exchange. Again, I don't know anything about what really happened here - the teacher may have been an insensitive clod. But isn't it weird that she's garnered her own "headlines in the press" over this particular poem?
Fly on the Wall March 22, 2012 at 12:54 PM
It isn't my logic. It is fact that Hughes wrote in a blues inflection. Just because certain black people may speak one way today, certain others did at his time. I am from Memphi, TN originally and noone sings the blues like a blues singer and noone can deny the history of the blues is directly related to the plight of the poor black man, like the one portrayed in this poem. "Further, you don't have all the facts" Oh and you do? So is this teacher black or white? Facts are being withheld on this one in order to stir up tension where there is none. The teacher should be fired for the way she spoke to the boy regardless of race. She is apparently infatuated with her own race.

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