A rainy, inhospitable night in Brockton, MA, didn’t stop students from coming out to discuss Uncle Tom’s Children, the first book written by African-American author Richard Wright in 1938. It was the latest piece of literature they had been assigned to read in the Clemente Course in the Humanities.
Even with English as a second or third language for many, everyone joined in the discussion, which was led by literature professor Corey Dolgon. Small and large groups reflected on themes presented in the book and each person was able to articulate how this story parallels their experiences today. With this text in mind they listened deeply to each other’s perspectives and shared their own narratives that both echoed and contrasted attitudes expressed nearly a century ago.
This is why the humanities are critical: we can unite disparate communities by fostering the intellect and compassion needed for effective cross-cultural understanding. Using the tools of the humanities magnifies our commonalities, keeps us curious about each other, and encourages us to examine our worldview.