Sample Lesson

(45 – 60 minutes)





  • Distribute a copy of the poem "History" or visit the link for access. Ask students to read the poem to themselves.

  • Re-read the poem together as a class. Call on students to read a stanza aloud.

  • Facilitate a conversation about students’ interpretations of the poem. Consider the following discussion questions:


  1. Gil Scott-Heron refers to "digging through the rubble?" What is he referring to here? What is the rubble?

  2. What “few facts” did he discover?

  3. How did whites measure civilization? Identify the actions and characteristics of the Africans that some whites considered as evidence of an "uncivilized" people.

  4. What aspects of African culture did Scott-Heron present as evidence that countered European notions of uncivilized Africa?

  5. What did the so-called "Dark Continent" have that was attractive to Europeans?

  6. Scott-Heron speaks of “word games” and “semantics.” What does he mean by this? Give an example from the poem and one of your own.

  7. What is the significance of the line, “Libya and Egypt used to be in Africa but they’ve been moved to the ‘middle east’?"

  8. When Scott-Heron uses the term “His-story,” whose perspective is he referring to? Why is this significant?

  9. Consider common assumptions associated with the words "civilized" and "primitive." How are these concepts racialized? How do we perpetuate these racialized conceptions through language, words, concepts, representation, or images?


 Display the following African proverb:

 “Until the lion tells his side of the story, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”


  • Ask students to discuss the meaning of the proverb. How does this proverb relate to Scott-Heron’s poem? What are the potential consequences of telling the lion’s side of the story or reading the lion’s version of history? What might that story look and sound like?