Whose perspective is told? Whose perspective is missing? Whose voice is heard? Whose voice is missing? What might this person say if they had a voice? These were some of the questions my students explored while performing critical readings of various historical texts.
After learning about World War I, my students were also challenged to consider the missing perspectives and voices in the stories of this historical event. What better way to learn about them than from an author? On Friday, December 12th, 2014, Max Brooks visited my seventh-grade classroom in Harlem, New York, at New Design Middle School to tell my students about one missing perspective in the stories of World War I, The Harlem Hellfighters.
Because they prepared for his visit all week long, they couldn’t compose themselves when he finally arrived. Brooks was greeted by a group of inquisitive seventh graders who bombarded him with questions about the Harlem Hellfighters. While speaking to them about his book, Brooks captured and maintained their attention, using gestures, facial expressions, and different voices to bring the characters and the entire story to life.
Next, Brooks and my students engaged in a Q&A session. Out of all the questions that my students posed, one of them stuck out: Why did you decide to write this book? Brooks explained that the Harlem Hellfighters’ voices were not included in history; they needed to be heard.
At the end of the day, each of my students received signed copies of The Harlem Hellfighters, and they haven’t put the book down since.
My students and I are honored that Max Brooks brought Harlem’s history to our Harlem classroom.
Click here to view photos from the event.
Click here to watch author Max Brooks discuss The Harlem Hellfighters with educators in New York City.