“Roll, Jordan, Roll”: A Critique of Slavery and a Story of Hope

The spiritual “Roll, Jordan, Roll” is one of the most well-known of the “sorrow songs”. W.E.B. Du Bois coined the term “sorrow songs” in his 1903 publication, The Souls of Black Folk, as a name for the songs sung by the African-American slaves in the Southern states. Throughout the book, each chapter begins with an excerpt from a work of Western literature and then two bars from an untitled slave song. In the final chapter, aptly titled “The Sorrow Songs”, Du Bois explains why he included the songs: Continue reading ““Roll, Jordan, Roll”: A Critique of Slavery and a Story of Hope”


Rethinking My Thinking

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I first heard the term “paradigm shift” in my Environmental Geology class earlier semester regarding the concept of continental drift. Paradigm shifts came up again in Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction, in respect to the history of extinctions. Our understanding of history, especially the history of the earth, can be told as a series of these fundamental changes in our underlying assumptions, or paradigm shifts. As Kolbert put it, “Crisis led to insight, and the old framework gave way to a new one” (93). Individuals can experience paradigm shifts in their own thinking as well. Throughout this past semester in Challenges of Modernity, we covered numerous pieces of literature which overall had a profound effect on my thinking. However, the reading which produced the greatest insight for me had to be Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals. Continue reading “Rethinking My Thinking”

Rachel Carson and Unintended Consequences

Our generation is unique. The generations preceding us did not face the challenge of saving the environment, primarily because they did not know it needed saving. From the dawn of the Industrial Revolution until the mid twentieth century, most people believed that we had the capability to control nature. Continue reading “Rachel Carson and Unintended Consequences”

The “Dream”: A Critical Concept in Between the World and Me

This was originally a formal paper but has been modified into a blog post.


Everyone dreams, but one individual’s dream may be another’s nightmare. Ta-Nehisi Coates references a “Dream” with this duality in his 2015 memoir Between the World and Me. The memoir is an extended letter to his adolescent son Samori about growing up black in America today. Coates’s Dream is essentially his notion of race relations in America, but it is not a static idea because it evolves as Coates grows up in the ghetto of Baltimore. The Dream is imperative for Samori to understand because it is the reason for his inherent struggle as a black boy in America. Coates does not protect him from this struggle though, because he believes it will bring him closer to the “meaning of life.” Coates’s Dream is elucidated by the conventional American Dream because the early notion of the Dream was a mirror image of it, but soon became a façade of the racial dynamic in America just as the American Dream was realized to be founded in white privilege. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’ “I Have a Dream” speech complicates Coates’s Dream because King’s dream is optimistic while Coates’s is pessimistic. Although the Dream in Between the World and Me proved to be a dynamic notion of race in contemporary American society that evolves as Coates grows up, he came to realize the racial divisions are not likely to change and that his son must be aware of the inherent struggle he will face, as a black man, if he hopes to live a meaningful life.

Continue reading “The “Dream”: A Critical Concept in Between the World and Me”