Privation School

By Willie James Jennings

(For Thurman)

From that secret place, 
                 empty of unmanaged difference,
facing the teachers,
                  evacuated of troublesome remembering,
all white, mostly men,
                 engineered blind to supremacy,
who had privately 
                  eviscerated othered voices,
taught them, to, like them, 
                   emulate malignant excellence,

reason critically, to analyze carefully, to calculate purposefully, to esteem deeply; to know the virtues of honor and honesty, diligence and discipline, humility and courage,
to respect all, to be kind to every …

They swore to repair the broken,
                education formed in segregation, 
beginning with themselves.


Willie James Jennings, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology and Africana Studies at YDS, is the author of The Christian Imagination and the Origins of Race (Yale, 2010) and other books. He is preparing a book of poems, The Time of Possession, for publication next year.

“Privation School” © 2023 by Willie James Jennings. Used by his permission.