Checking Out Me History File

Checking Out Me History
John Agard
Read the poem through
Important things to know…
1066 = crucial to English history as it
places within the areas they had been
marked the take over of English society by transported to.
the French.
Nanny de Maroon led the maroons to
victory in Jamaica against British rule.
Dick Whittington = a poor boy with nothing
but a cat who became Lord Mayor of
Lord Nelson = famous English admiral who
London – mentioned in fairy tales and
inflicted a massive defeat on the French
which meant the British Empire was
Touissant L’Ouverture = the black leader of
the Haitian revolution against French
The Battle of Waterloo 1815 = the final
Colonial rule. He abolished slavery in Haiti defeat of the French army led by Napoleon
and turned it into an independent republic which made Britain a world super power
Nanny de Maroon = (Maroon is a general
term used to describe black slaves who
escaped from slavery and lived in remote
Shaka = an influential leader of the Zulu made famous from supposedly stealing
nation. He united the Zulu people against from the rich to give to the poor.
other tribes and the increasing presence of
the white settlers
Mary Seacole was a Jamaican woman who
looked after soldiers in the same way that
Caribs and Arawaks = the original
Nightingale did – a black woman who
inhabitants of the West Indies at the time made a unique contribution to our history
when Columbus ‘discovered’ the islands. but has been forgotten.
They were killed off by the war or through
exposure to European diseases that they Crimean War = 1854-56 Russian Empire vs
had no immunity to.
Britain, France and the Ottoman Empire.
Lots of deaths occurred from fighting bit
Florence Nightingale = a famous British
also from outbreaks of disease.
nurse. Famous for her work in the
Crimean War and her innovations in
Old King Cole and The Cow Jumped Over
the Moon = nursery rhymes
Robin Hood = legendary English hero
What do the following mean?
Dem Me Bout Dat Lick back De –
See-far woman –
-A woman who
has a vision of the
Brief notes about the poem
• Agard is pointing out how in the English
Curriculum students only seem to learn about
white people because he believes it is written
by white people for white people
• He believes history in the English Curriculum
deliberately leaves out information about
black men and women who deserve more
Stanza one…
These three
words are
used at the
start of all
the stanzas
that rhyme
What’s the stanza about?
Dem tell me
Dem tell me
Wha dem want to tell me
The repetition highlights the
control that white people have
over history
Agard believes that if
you control what
people learn about the
past, then you can
control how people
think and what they
think about themselves
Stanza two…
The use of the ‘b’
creates an angry
The alliteration on ‘b’ at the
start of these lines shows
that Agard believes that
information has been
deliberately distorted and
Bandage up me eye with me own history
Blind me to me own identity
The use of non-standard English is
used to show his own culture and
background which he feels is not
acknowledged by the English
What’s the stanza about?
Stanza three…
This quatrain is repeated
throughout the poem – in each
one a different famous white
figure is mentioned. Each quatrain
usually ends with the mention of a
black historical figure who isn’t
taught about
Dem tell me bout 1066 and all dat
dem tell me bout Dick Whittington and he cat
But Toussaint L’Ouverture
no dem never tell me bout dat
The childish rhyme shows how he feels
about what he has been told about the past
– this is why he mentions characters from
nursery rhymes and myth – he is mocking
what he has been told
What’s the stanza about?
Stanza four…
The lines are
shorter and they are
written in free verse
– Agard is using an
form to write about
The use of occasional
rhyme in these sections is
These longer verses serve to
concentrate on someone
famous in black history
a slave
with vision
lick black
and first Black
Republic born
Toussaint de thorn
to de French
Toussaint de beacon
of de Haitian Revolution
What’s the stanza about?
The mocking tone is not
apparent in these sections.
They are italicised so that
they stand out visually
These section are filled with
metaphor and positive
imagery to convince the
reader about how amazing
these people are
Stanza five…
Note the lack of punctuation in the
whole poem. Agarad is choosing to
reject the rules of punctuation – the
poem is therefore purposefully full of
enjambment – this represents how he
is rejecting white history too
Dem tell me bout de man who discover de
and de cow who jump over de moon
Dem tell me bout de dish ran away with the
but dem never tell me bout Nanny de maroon
What’s the stanza about?
Stanza six…
This language is unusual
and original
What’s the stanza about?
see-far woman
of mountain dream
fire-woman struggle
hopeful stream
to freedom river
The metaphors create
a positive image of
What do the metaphors
suggest to you about
Nanny de Maroon?
Stanza seven…
What’s the stanza about?
Dem tell me bout Lord Nelson and
but dem never tell me bout Shaka de great
Stanza eight…
Dem tell me bout Columbus and 1492
but what happen to de Caribs and de Arawaks
What’s the stanza about?
Stanza nine…
What’s the stanza about?
Dem tell me bout Florence Nightingale and she
And how Robin Hood used to camp
Dem tell me bout ole King Cole was a merry
ole soul
but dem never tell me bout Mary Seacole
Stanza ten…
This metaphor
describes Mary
Seacole in a positive
light – a yellow sunrise
is full of hope and
promise for the dying
From Jamaica
she travel far
to the Crimean War
she volunteer to go
and even when de British said no
she still brave the Russian snow
a healing star
among the wounded
a yellow sunrise
to the dying
What’s the stanza about?
Stanza eleven…
What’s the stanza about?
The repetition of ‘dem tell
me’ could represent how
Agard felt nagged when
he was at school
Dem tell
Dem tell me wha dem want to tell me
But now I checking out me own history
I carving out me identity
Here the second line highlights how angry
Agard is
Now that he knows
about Toussaint; Nanny
de Maroon and Mary
Seacole he feels he is
able to understand
something about the
culture he comes from
The poem…
• Is cleverly constructed to
reclaim black identity
• Makes the reader aware
that British history is only a
point of view
• Introduces the reader to
famous black people
• Reminds us that whoever
controls the past, controls
the present
The poem…
• Cleverly uses two types of
stanza to show the
differences between
‘official’ and ‘non-official’
• Shows that without a
history and without a
distinctive voice we may
have no identity
Stanza two…
Bandage up me eye with me own history
Blind me to me own identity
Stanza two…
Bandage up me eye with me own history
Blind me to me own identity

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