Race and Identity in America

Race and Identity in America

Race in America Reflection


Take a few minutes to write down your thoughts about race. As you write, consider the following questions.

  • What do we mean when we talk about race in general?
  • In “The Wife of His Youth,” how does this meeting between two characters, both of whom are African American, express a great divide between races in America?
  • How does the meeting express the divide within particular racial or ethnic groups?

Open Notebook

Submit your writing to your teacher.

Ryder on Race Share

Work Time

In the story, much is made about the color of one’s skin. For Mr. Ryder, and the people of his social network and race, the lines that are drawn between the races andwithin the races seem to be of utmost importance.

Chesnutt describes Mr. Ryder’s views on race in the first part of the story. Reread the following passage.

"I have no race prejudice," he would say, "but we people of mixed blood are ground between the upper and the nether millstone. Our fate lies between absorption by the white race and extinction in the black. The one doesn't want us yet, but may take us in time. The other would welcome us, but it would be for us a backward step. 'With malice towards none, with charity for all,' we must do the best we can for ourselves and those who are to follow us. Self-preservation is the first law of nature."

With your partner, discuss the passage. Consider the following questions.

  • How does Ryder view himself in relation to whites?
  • How does he view himself in relation to darker-skinned African Americans?
  • What does Ryder mean by the phrase “absorption by the white race and extinction in the black”?
  • How does his claim that “self-preservation is the first law of nature” connect to later events in the story?

Lincoln Address and Reflection

Work Time

In the phrase “With malice toward none, with charity for all,” Chesnutt alludes to President Lincoln’s second inaugural address.

Read Lincoln’s speech with a partner. Discuss and make notes about the following questions.

  • What was Lincoln asking for, and how does race play an important part in his message?
  • Why would Chesnutt choose to allude to this speech when describing Ryder’s view of race?

Civil War, Before and After

Work Time

Move into your small group as directed and listen to your teacher’s instructions on conducting research. Your group will be assigned a research topic.

When your group has been assigned a topic, do the following.

  • Find one or two reliable sources of information on the topic.
  • Organize a few key points that you think will be of interest to your classmates.
  • Plan to give a 2-minute presentation to the class on your topic.


Work Time

Share your group’s presentation and listen as your classmates share their research.

  • Make notes on ideas that you want to explore further.

Open Notebook

Race Quick Write


In a Quick Write, respond to the following prompt.

  • What did you learn today about ideas of race in the United States and the history around those ideas?

Open Notebook

When you finish, submit your writing to your teacher.

Race in America Articles


  • Find two articles that deal with modern race relations in America.
  • Write a Gist for each article.

Open Notebook

Submit your articles and Gists to your teacher.