English/Language Arts

Setting the Stage: Information Search and Presentation    

The Purpose: In order to understand and appreciate a work of literature, it is important to understand its setting. You are going to find out about the setting--the time and place--of the play Fences.

The Task

1.    You are going to be composing a PowerPoint or poster. Search the list below in order to assemble a "resource bank" of texts, photos, graphics, and music that reflect the period, background, and social situation of either the playwright, August Wilson, or of the characters in his play, Fences--the protagonist Troy Maxson in particular.

2.    Your collection should include the following:
•    at least 8 photographic images (sources documented)
•    at least 4 quotes (each 3 or more sentences long) on the topic from at least 2 different sources
•    at least 2 poems or songs related to the topic and the time
•    at least 2 graphics other than photographs (such as maps, drawings, posters) from that era that relate to your topic
•    a headline or clearly displayed title that identifies your topic is on the PowerPoint or poster; your heading (first and last name, class hour, date submitted) on the back of your poster or on your PowerPoint as the author

3.    With your PowerPoint or poster, include:
•    at least two paragraphs explaining why you included each individual item on your poster or webpage with a bibliography of sources you used for each item
•    your heading (topic title, first and last name, class hour, date submitted) at the top of your paragraphs, and on your webpage or on the back of your poster

4.    Here’s how to turn it in:
•    Poster: On the poster board provided or one that is the same size and general weight. Place in the space indicated on the counter.
•    PowerPoint: Email to sdurr@thecityinc.org
•    Paragraphs: Place in your class hour box in the classroom

5.    Before you submit your work, make sure that you check it against the grading rubric below.

Negro Baseball League
•    1938. Troy, age 34, gets out of prison and becomes a baseball player. What opportunities were open to African-American baseball players at this time? What were the Negro leagues? Who were the outstanding players? Why were these leagues segregated from the major leagues?
•    1947. The first player from the Negro leagues joins a major league team. Who was responsible for this change? Who was the player? How did the public receive him? What changes resulted from this act of integration?

Civil Rights
•    1957. The play begins. What were the social, economic, political and educational expectations and opportunities for African Americans at this time? What advances had been made in civil rights? What changes in civil rights were still to come? What significant changes will occur during the years between 1957 and 1965?
•    1965. The play ends. What changes in the status of African Americans came about because of Civil Rights? Because of the Vietnam war?

The Blues

•    Wilson cited the blues as the primary influence on his work. What are the characteristics of the blues? How do they relate to the rhythms and structure of Fences?
•    Music features largely in the play: Lyons is a musician, Gabriel blows his horn, and several characters sing old songs. Find real-life blues songs of this era that are the same or similar to songs in Fences or mentioned in the play. Find real-life blues singers of this era that are the same or similar to singers in the play or mentioned in the play?

World War II
•    Gabe, Troy’s brother, returns from World War II a wounded veteran. What were the expectations and opportunities for African Americans in each branch of the military (Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines) at this time? What obstacles did they face? What advances were made in civil rights during WWII? What changes in civil rights were still to come for African Americans who served in the military and for African Americans veterans? What was life like for African Americans returning home from the war?
African Americans During WWII


•    1904. Troy Maxon was born to a sharecropper in the South. What is a sharecropper? What was life like for a sharecropper in the South? How did the system of sharecropping entrap people? How could a person escape that life?
•    1918. Troy Maxson, age 14, one of the characters in Fences, leaves the South for Pittsburgh. What opportunities and restrictions would he have found there? Research Pittsburgh, specifically the Hill District, during the years Troy Maxson lives there, 1918- 1965.