Ninth-grader says teacher told him to read Langston Hughes poem ‘blacker’

A veteran Fairfax County high school teacher has been accused of using racially insensitive language by telling a student to read a Langston Hughes poem in a “blacker” style.

Jordan Shumate, a ninth-grader at George C. Marshall High School in Falls Church, Va., told the Washington Post that he was reading Hughes’ “Ballad of the Landlord” when the English teacher interrupted him.

“She told me, ‘Blacker, Jordan. C’mon, blacker. I thought you were black,'” Shumate told the Post. The 14-year-old student claimed that when he refused to continue reading the poem, the teacher read it herself, apparently to demonstrate the style of speaking she meant.

“She sounded like a maid on the 1960s,” Shumate told the Post, saying he asked the teacher if she thought all black people spoke that way. “She read the poem like a slave, basically.”

He said he was reprimanded for talking out of turn and was told to sit down.

Shumate told his mother, Nicole Cober Page, about the incident on Tuesday, the Post said.

According to the Post, mother and son identified the teacher as Marilyn Bart. Bart has not spoken publicly about the alleged incident, the Post reported.

Principal Jay Pearson declined to provide further details on Friday, adding, “We take these allegations very seriously, and we’re investigating.”

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