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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Robert Yost, November 22, 2000. Interview K-0487. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Race informs teaching style

Although the rising percentage of black students at West Charlotte High School does not influence his curriculum, Yost tries to make some works of literature more appealing to black students by asking them, for example, to perform a rap instead of writing a paper.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Robert Yost, November 22, 2000. Interview K-0487. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

PAMELA GRUNDY:
I guess one of the questions in terms of content, too, that I had, in terms of teaching and again regarding having a higher percentage of black students, is whether, for example, that pushed you or encouraged you to teach more black authors, more Zora Neal Hurstons, that kind of thing, or whether that's not something that doesn't-.
ROBERT YOST:
No, that's not even a factor. Because that's something I have to teach. That's a unit with the pace setter. So when I teach that, it's not even British literature. And you know, one of the sad thing about British literature is that there are not really any African American authors. For example, you don't have a black Anglo-Saxon English literature. There is no black medieval period British literature. Unfortunately, there's no black Shakespeare. We have to deal with the white one when we're doing the English Renaissance. So there's, until you come to some of the modern ones, and we never get to the modern writers. But you know there's really not much from the African American perspective. So I try to do some different things with it. For example, we just did Beowulf with my regular classes. And when we finish Beowulf they have to do a twenty-line rap or poem summarizing Beowulf. So they actually have to do that. And I do a rap myself. I can't find it here. Oh, yes, here it is.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Well do it.
ROBERT YOST:
Okay. This is Beowulf in the 'Hood by Robert Yost: Well his name was Beowulf, and it ain't no jive, that he was the baddest cat alive. He fought with Grendel, and ain't it true, when he was finished, Grendel was dragon stew. He ripped his arm off, clawed all, then he fought his Ma, but not his Pa. Then Beowulf got older and don't you see, he wore Depends for when he had to pee. He fought the dragon from a rocket ship. That Beowulf was so old, he had no hair. But all ends well when you're brave and true, that's all there is, this poem is through.