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"move" by Lucille Clifton

"move" by Lucille Clifton


Students will understand and interpret use of refrain in poetry.

Students will understand and interpret Lucille Clifton's poem "move" in the context of the history of the Black Arts Movement.

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Research - What is refrain?

Conduct an online inquiry to find out what the word "refrain" means in terms of poetry. When finished, answer the question in the quiz on the right.

Info on MOVE - Part 1

Info on MOVE - Part 2

"move" by Lucille Clifton

On May 13, 1985 Wilson Goode, Philadelphia’s first black mayor, authorized the bombing of 6221 Osage Avenue after the complaints of neighbors, also Black, about the Afrocentric back-to-nature group headquartered there and calling itself Move. All the members of the group wore dreadlocks and had taken the surname Africa. In the bombing eleven people, including children, were killed and sixty-one homes in the neighborhood destroyed.

“move” by Lucille Clifton

they had begun to whisper
among themselves     hesitant
to be branded neighbor to the wild
haired women the naked children
reclaiming a continent


he hesitated
then turned his smoky finger
toward Africa toward the house
he might have lived in might have
owned or saved had he not turned


the helicopter rose at the command
higher at first then hesitating
then turning toward the center
of its own town only a neighborhood


she cried as the child stood
hesitant in the last clear sky
he would ever see the last
before the whirling blades the whirling smoke
and sharp debris carried away all clarity


if you live in a mind
that would destroy itself
to comfort itself
if you would stand fire
rather than difference
do not hesitate


In a Google doc, respond to the following questions. When finished, share the doc with your instructor.

1. What is the refrain fo the poem?

2. How does the meaning of the refrain change from the beginning of the poem to the end?

3. What other words are repeated in the poem?

4. How do you think the speaker of the poem feels?

5. Who does the speaker of the poem want to "move / away"? Why?