Timed Writing: 1995 Prompt (James Baldwin)

1995: Argument Prompt - James Baldwin--Language and Identity

Question 3
(Suggested time-40 minutes.  This question counts one-third of the total essay section score.)
     The paragraph below comes from a 1979 essay by expatriate African American writer James Baldwin. Read the paragraph carefully and then write an essay that defends, challenges, or qualifies Baldwin's ideas about the importance of language as a "key to identity" and to social acceptance. Use specific evidence from your observation, experience, or reading to develop your position.

     It goes without saying, then, that language is also a political instrument,means, and proof of power. It is the most vivid and crucial key to identity: It reveals the private identity, and connects one with, or divorces one from, the larger, public, or communal identity. There have been, and are, times, and places, when to speak a certain language could be dangerous, even fatal. Or, one may speak the same language, but in such a way that one's antecedents are revealed, or (one hopes) hidden. This is true in France, and is absolutely true in England: The range (and reign) of accents on that damp little island make England coherent for the English and totally incomprehensible for everyone else. To open your mouth in England is (if I may use black English) to "put your business in the street": You have confessed your parents, your youth, your school, your salary, your self-esteem, and, alas, your future.

Additional Directions:
For this first essay, you will have 50 minutes to write a well-organized and interesting argument essay on the above topic.  Remember to have a clear thesis and support it with specific and relevant evidence.  Have this screen open and have your essay document open in another tab to make it easier to go back and forth between screens.  The essay is due at the end of the period.