Examples: Charles Drew BiographiesDr. Charles Drew, a black doctor, was a leader in the effort to store blood
director of the Red Cross, developed the first blood banks.
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The passages below SAY somewhat the same thing. They convey essentially the same information. But
they DO different things, and in so doing portray Drew slightly differently. (The
second, for instance, includes a quotation.) And as
a result, they MEAN slightly different things.
What is the overall message in each excerpt? As you read, ask yourself how the
Drew and other parties are portrayed
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In the first text, Dr. Drew resigns out of frustration,very sad and angry and ineffective (Drew explained...But no one listened.). In the second text, Drew resigns on principle [this kind of protest,...this directive was completely unacceptable]in response to and protest of the Red
Cross's senseless [made no sense from any scientific or medical point of view] , racist [a racist policy]
Text 1For a long time, the Army and Navy refused to accept blood from black people.
Even after it started to accept "colored" blood, the Army told the Red Cross
to separate the donated blood of black people from that of whites. Charles Drew
explained that there was no such thing as "black" and "white" blood. Blood was
blood. But no one listened. This made Charles Drew very sad and angry. He
resigned from the Red Cross.1
Text 2Due to the success of his program [to collect, store and ship blood for
transfusions in England], Drew was appointed as Red Cross director of a
nationwide project to collect blood for the U.S. military. The project was
going well until the armed forces told the Red Cross that it did not want any
"colored" blood. Such a racist policy made no sense from any
scientific or medical point of view. In an angry editorial, the ChicagoDefendersaid
No Negro blood accepted but---Because of this kind of protest, the military agreed to accept
"colored" blood but insisted that it be kept separate from blood
donated by whites. To Dr. Drew this directive was completely unacceptable, and
he resigned from the blood program.2
When the terrible blitz raids of London . . . killed and wounded thousands . .
. it was an American Negro surgeon [who organized and sent] U.S. blood plasma
No Negro blood accepted but---
When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and maimed hundreds of American soldiers
and sailors, it was blood collected by a Negro surgeon that saved their lives.
The presentations have similar structures: they both contrast the actions and positions of the Army, Red Cross,
and Dr. Drew. In each case, the Army's directive to the Red Cross is given as
the cause of
his quitting. But by portraying that action
differently,as examples of different behaviors, different meanings are implied .
The two presentations thus develop different " inference equations ":
Text 1: resignation due to frustration implies: quitterWe could continue the analysis of the second text by describing the nature of the quotation from the Defender (what the examples are examplesof) and how the inclusion of such material contributes to the portrayal of the
Army actions, and hence to Drew's response to those actions.
Text 2: resignation based on principle implies: courageous behavior
Others might analyze these, or any other, texts differently; critical reading is not about finding a single, correct interpretation. Rather, utilizing a linguistic approach to analysis, each reader attempts to find a consistency in the choices of content, language and structure available to the author to infer an overall
meaning and perspective for the text as a whole.
1What Your 1st Grader Needs to Know: Fundamentals of a Good First-Grade Education, ed. E. D. Hirsch, Jr. (New York: Doubleday, 1991), pp. 232-233.
2Susan Altman,Extraordinary Black Americans, (Chicago: Children's Press, 1989) p. 163.