Magazine article Multicultural Education

American Odyssey: The African-American Saga as Heroic Quest

Magazine article Multicultural Education

American Odyssey: The African-American Saga as Heroic Quest

Article excerpt

American Odyssey: The African-American Saga as Heroic Quest

Reviewed by Edward Taylor University of Washington

Educators, especially proponents of multicultural education, are seeking to integrate our schools curriculum to include a broader, truer description of our nations remarkable past. But practitioners face a daunting dilemma: how to incorporate the stories of African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics, and others without coming across like an incessant tale of victimization and oppression. Many of us can recall our acute embarrassment in middle school when "slaves" first appeared in United States history textbooks during the Civil War as well as our relief when their brief reemergence-as Negroes-ends after the turmoil of the 1960s.

Clyde Ford sees a way, metaphorically speaking, out of this dilemma: Place these historic experiences in the context of the mythic, quintessential heroic journey. Known in some fundamental way to all of us, this quest features a hero or heroine who travels, willingly or not, away from their homeland to some threshold, such as an ocean, that they must cross. Monsters lurk, battles ensue. The hero/heroine descends into an abyss and here, their fate lies in the balance. Then, through some help from the gods, a magical spell, or an ancient promise, the hero/heroine triumphs, claiming a victory not only for him/herself, but for all of humanity.

Thus is the story of the Middle Passage, where untold millions of Africans were brought to the slave castles of West African and faced the abyss of the Atlantic and the monstrous slave traders. …

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