For African Americans, literacy has historically been rooted in passion, collaboration, and social justice. This study explores two distinct sites of historical African American literacy development: literary societies of the 1800s and print culture of the Harlem Renaissance. Notably, literacy and culture were fundamentally intertwined during these times, creating an urgency and inspiration for literary pursuits not often seen today. In an effort to rekindle this reverence and utility for literacy in classrooms today, a culturally sustaining pedagogy is called for. Culturally sustaining pedagogy seeks to leverage students’ cultural knowledge and skills. By culturally aligning curriculum and instruction, educators position students to experience the transformative power of literacy—a transformative power that was evident in African American literary societies and through the Harlem Renaissance print culture. This study seeks to merge historical and contemporary approaches to literacy development to reconceptualize literacy education and engagement for all students.
Teachers today can employ tactics that have been effective in this study to implement a culturally sustaining pedagogy. Deliberately, this means including sources written by and about people from diverse origins. For instance, a comparison of perspectives and the impact of texts written by authors with diverse ethnic backrgrounds can give the students a greater appreciation of cultural differences. These are essential contributions of this study.
Moreover, it was recommended by the study that teachers provide students with a list of multicultural literature for independent reading. This gives students a degree of autonomy in selecting texts that they find meaningful and interesting. This should be a powerful strategy in eliciting reader response.