Segments in this Video

Credits: Legends of Air Power: Eileen Collins (00:27)


Credits: Legends of Air Power: Eileen Collins

Achievement Gap (02:40)

The Oakland School Board holds a community forum to present the case for Ebonics curriculum. Task force members argue that their proposals will close the achievement gap.

Task Force (02:01)

Members discuss the process and goals of the task force commissioned by the Oakland school board, which endorsed Ebonics.

Public School Board Meeting (02:12)

Oakland's School Board defends the language program as empowering African-Americans to learn African-American language. The program sought to ultimately teach black students standard English.

Next On Bill Moyers Journal (00:33)

See a preview of an upcoming episode on Wall Street excess.

Media Misrepresents Program (03:44)

People portrayed Oakland's program as teaching Ebonics. The goal was to teach standard English without forcing students to abandon Ebonics, and teach them to recognize the difference.

Revisions to Resolution (01:47)

The Task Force revised its Ebonics resolution after controversy. It removed the assertion that Ebonics is genetically based and any language suggesting instruction in Ebonics.

Debate over Revisions to Document (05:02)

At an Oakland's School Board forum, supporters of changes to the Ebonics resolution say they support the documents intent but favor better communication.

Origins of the Word Ebonics (03:15)

A group of black scholars coined "Ebonics" in 1973 in an effort to destigmatize their language. There have been a variety of labels for these language patterns.

Whether Ebonics is English Vernacular (03:32)

Some argue that Ebonics is a vernacular of English. Others say this is offensive, as this implies Africans had no language of their own.

Genetics Used Metaphorically in Linguistics (01:41)

An expert talks about how linguists look at language. Linguists metaphorically speak of genetic relationships between languages; such terminology created controversy when applied to Ebonics.

Grammar in Ebonics (01:36)

Experts state that the language pattern of African-Americans is structured, systematic, and grammatically governed.

Being Verbs in Ebonics (06:40)

Learn rules governing Ebonics verbs and zero form; form indicates tense and aspect. Studies show young children understand these distinctions.

Goals and Misrepresentation of Resolution (02:25)

The Ebonics resolution recommended using knowledge of African-American students' home language to better teach standard English; public ignorance led to criticism.

Senate Hearings (01:32)

A Senate Committee holds hearings on teaching of Ebonics. Senators and witnesses, black and white, express opinions.

Making Fun of Ebonics (03:13)

YouTube videos mock Ebonics as "nigger speak." Others, including a black stand-up comedian, parody Ebonics. Parodies often reveal a lack of knowledge of African-American English.

Language Versus Dialect (03:41)

The word "dialect" connotes low status; linguists use "language variety" to avoid charged debates about whether something is a language or dialect.

Language and Social Status (02:10)

Many perceive black language as low status because they see black communities as low status. Rejection of black language is often a proxy for racism.

Black Opponents of Ebonics (01:22)

Some of the strongest opponents of Ebonics include African-Americans, including Jesse Jackson.

Language and Identity (02:47)

An expert states that language is identity. When a teacher corrects a child's language, that child feels attacked by an imposition of white linguistics and cultural norms.

Retrospective on Ebonics Controversy (04:44)

Those on the Oakland School Board during the Ebonics controversy talk say the effort was worth it; schools continue to struggle.

Credits: The E-Word: Ebonics, Race and Language Politics (01:26)

Credits: The E-Word: Ebonics, Race and Language Politics

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The E-Word: Ebonics, Race, and Language Politics

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This documentary critically considers the Oakland Unified Schools' 1996 “Ebonics Resolution.” Building on the success of local instructional programming, the Resolution sought to improve African-American student performance by acknowledging African American linguistic patterns and improving “the English acquisition and application skills of African-American students.” Through the use of archival footage and contemporary interviews with scholars, educational policymakers and leaders and students who were directly involved with the Resolution, the documentary pursues a coherent and comprehensive engagement of Ebonics.  

The program explores; the African roots of the linguistic patterns that define Ebonics, the debate about the name, the adoption, revision and local debate about the resolution, and the ways in which the discussion of Ebonics entered the larger American public through media and public policy.  The film aims to raise the topic of Ebonics in a contemporary and scholarly context, and is the first documentary to address this complex issue through an engagement with linguistic and educational research. More information can be found at

Written, Directed and Produced by Jonathan Gayles. Principal Academic Advisor and Research Consultant, Ronald Williams, II


Length: 62 minutes

Item#: BVL86445

ISBN: 978-1-60057-766-6

Copyright date: ©2015

Closed Captioned

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