Next, give students the opportunity to hear the voice of someone who actively resisted the era’s theories of racial inequality. Explain to students that they will be reading a source from a Native American (Pequot) minister named William Apess, an advocate for racial equality and the rights of Native Americans.
Before reading the source with students, explain that the author’s use of the term “black” is outdated. In this essay, the author uses it to describe both skin color and immorality. Explain that in our place and time, the word “black” does not mean “immoral” or “wrong.” It is important for students to understand that you, as the teacher, are not endorsing a negative association with blackness, which is harmful to all students and may be especially harmful to students of color.
Students will read the source three times, using the Three Reads Protocol from ElevatED Learning Services. The point of the Three Reads Protocol is to help students comprehend difficult texts in a scaffolded manner, progressing through the following stages:
- First read: Students read a heavily abridged text for meaning in order to gain a basic understanding of the person/place/historical event depicted in the source.
- Second read: Students read an abridged version of the text with the most difficult aspects edited out; they read with an eye toward understanding the author’s perspective through analysis of word choice, the sequence of ideas, and the intended audience.
- Third read: Students read the unabridged text for meaning in order to gain a more nuanced understanding of the person/place/historical event depicted in the source.
To begin the process, divide the class into small groups of three to five students. Explain to students that they will be reading different versions of a primary source three times to help them fully comprehend the text. Pass out An Indian’s Looking Glass for the White Man, 1833 (Heavily Abridged). Have students read this heavily abridged version of the text and answer the guided reading questions as a group. Then repeat the process with An Indian’s Looking Glass for the White Man, 1833 (Abridged), which is a version with the most difficult aspects of the text edited out. Students should also answer the accompanying guided reading questions for this text. Finally, pass out the unabridged An Indian’s Looking Glass for the White Man, 1833, which is the original version of the text. Read it aloud as a class. Then discuss one or more of the following questions:
- What does this source tell you about nineteenth-century ideas about race? How does the author respond to those ideas?
- In what ways can this essay be understood as a work of resistance or protest? What is the author resisting or protesting?
- Why do you think Apess chose to title his essay “An Indian’s Looking Glass for the White Man”? How does the idea of a looking glass or mirror connect to the essay’s purpose or central ideas?