checking out me history thesis statement

Checking Out Me History Summary & Analysis by John Agard

  • Line-by-Line Explanation & Analysis
  • Poetic Devices
  • Vocabulary & References
  • Form, Meter, & Rhyme Scheme
  • Line-by-Line Explanations

checking out me history thesis statement

"Checking Out Me History" was written by the British Guyanese poet John Agard and first published in 2005, in the collection Half-Caste . The poem focuses on the holes in the British colonial education system—particularly that system's omission of important figures from African, Caribbean, and indigenous history. In other words, the poem discusses how colonized people were forced to learned about British history—which had little to do with their actual lives—at the expense of their own history. Not only does the poem call attention to the oppressive nature of colonial education, but it also praises important figures who were left out—figures such as Touissaint L'Ouverture, the leader of the Haitian revolution. The poem suggests the colonial syllabus deliberately blinded colonized people to their own histories, and argues that only by re-learning their history can these people can fully understand and embrace their identities.

  • Read the full text of “Checking Out Me History”
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checking out me history thesis statement

The Full Text of “Checking Out Me History”

“checking out me history” summary, “checking out me history” themes.

Theme Colonialism, History, and Identity

Colonialism, History, and Identity

Line-by-line explanation & analysis of “checking out me history”.

Dem tell me ... ... to tell me

checking out me history thesis statement

Bandage up me ... ... me own identity

Dem tell me ... ... me bout dat

  • Lines 10-21

Toussaint ... ... de Haitian Revolution

Lines 22-25

Dem tell me ... ... Nanny de Maroon

  • Lines 26-31

Nanny ... ... To freedom river

Lines 32-35

Dem tell me ... ... de Arawaks too

Lines 36-39

Dem tell me ... ... bout Mary Seacole

Lines 40-45

From Jamaica ... ... the Russian snow

Lines 46-49

A healing star ... ... To the dying

Lines 50-53

Dem tell me ... ... out me identity

“Checking Out Me History” Symbols

Symbol Light and Vision

Light and Vision

  • Lines 4-5: “Bandage up me eye with me own history / Blind me to me own identity”
  • Line 10: “Toussaint”
  • Lines 11-12: “A slave / With vision”
  • Lines 20-21: “Toussaint de beacon / Of de Haitian Revolution”
  • Line 27: “See-far woman”
  • Line 36: “Florence Nightingale and she lamp”
  • Lines 46-49: “A healing star / Among the wounded / A yellow sunrise / To the dying”

“Checking Out Me History” Poetic Devices & Figurative Language

  • Lines 1-2: “Dem tell me / Dem tell me”
  • Line 3: “Wha dem want to tell me”
  • Line 6: “Dem tell me bout”
  • Line 7: “Dem tell me bout ”
  • Line 8: “Toussaint L’Ouverture”
  • Line 18: “Toussaint de thorn”
  • Line 20: “Toussaint de beacon”
  • Line 22: “Dem tell me bout de”
  • Line 24: “Dem tell me bout de”
  • Line 25: “But dem never tell me,” “Nanny de Maroon”
  • Line 26: “Nanny”
  • Line 32: “Dem tell me bout ”
  • Line 33: “But dem never tell me”
  • Line 34: “Dem tell me bout ”
  • Line 36: “Dem tell me bout”
  • Line 38: “Dem tell me bout ”
  • Line 39: “But dem never tell me”
  • Line 50: “Dem tell me”
  • Line 51: “Dem tell me ,” “wha dem want to tell me”

Colloquialism

  • Lines 1-3: “Dem tell me / Dem tell me / Wha dem want to tell me”
  • Line 4: “Bandage up me eye with me own”
  • Line 5: “me own”
  • Line 6: “Dem tell me bout 1066 and all dat”
  • Line 7: “Dem tell me bout,” “he cat”
  • Line 9: “No dem never tell me bout dat”
  • Line 13: “Lick back”
  • Lines 22-25: “Dem tell me bout de man who discover de balloon / And de cow who jump over de moon / Dem tell me bout de dish ran away with de spoon / But dem never tell me bout Nanny de Maroon”
  • Line 32: “Dem tell me bout”
  • Line 33: “But dem never tell me bout”
  • Line 34: “Dem tell me bout”
  • Line 35: “de Caribs and de Arawaks”
  • Line 36: “Dem tell me bout Florence Nightingale and she lamp”
  • Lines 38-39: “Dem tell me bout ole King Cole was a merry ole soul / But dem never tell me bout Mary Seacole”
  • Line 41: “She travel far”
  • Line 43: “She volunteer to go”
  • Lines 50-51: “Dem tell me / Dem tell me wha dem want to tell me”
  • Line 52: “I checking out me own”
  • Line 53: “I carving out me”
  • Lines 2-3: “me / Wha”
  • Lines 11-12: “slave / With”
  • Lines 13-15: “back / Napoleon / Battalion”
  • Lines 16-17: “Black / Republic”
  • Lines 18-19: “thorn / To”
  • Lines 20-21: “beacon / Of ”
  • Lines 27-28: “woman / Of”
  • Lines 30-31: “stream / To”
  • Lines 39-40: “Seacole / From”
  • Lines 41-42: “far / To”
  • Lines 46-47: “star / Among”
  • Lines 48-49: “sunrise / To”
  • Line 4: “Bandage up me eye with me own history”
  • Lines 27-28: “See-far woman / Of mountain dream”
  • Line 29: “Fire-woman struggle”
  • Lines 30-31: “Hopeful stream / To freedom river”
  • Lines 46-47: “A healing star / Among the wounded”
  • Lines 48-49: “A yellow sunrise / To the dying”
  • Line 4: “Bandage”
  • Line 5: “Blind,” “identity”
  • Line 7: “Dick Whittington,” “cat”
  • Line 9: “No,” “never”
  • Line 11: “slave”
  • Lines 12-13: “vision / Lick back”
  • Line 14: “Napoleon”
  • Line 15: “Battalion”
  • Line 16: “Black”
  • Line 17: “Republic,” “born”
  • Line 18: “Toussaint,” “thorn”
  • Line 19: “French”
  • Line 20: “Toussaint,” “beacon”
  • Line 21: “Haitian Revolution”
  • Line 22: “balloon”
  • Line 23: “moon”
  • Line 24: “spoon”
  • Line 25: “Nanny,” “Maroon”
  • Line 27: “far ,” “woman”
  • Lines 28-31: “mountain dream / Fire-woman struggle / Hopeful stream / To freedom”
  • Line 32: “Lord Nelson,” “Waterloo”
  • Line 33: “Shaka,” “Zulu”
  • Line 34: “Columbus”
  • Line 35: “Caribs,” “Arawaks”
  • Line 36: “Florence Nightingale,” “lamp”
  • Line 37: “camp”
  • Line 38: “ole King Cole,” “merry ,” “ole soul”
  • Line 39: “Mary ,” “Seacole”
  • Line 40: “From Jamaica”
  • Line 41: “travel far”
  • Line 42: “Crimean War”
  • Line 43: “volunteer”
  • Line 44: “even,” “British,” “said”
  • Line 45: “She,” “still,” “brave,” “Russian,” “snow”
  • Line 46: “healing,” “star”
  • Line 47: “wounded”
  • Line 48: “yellow,” “sunrise”
  • Line 49: “dying”
  • Line 3: “dem,” “tell me”
  • Line 4: “me,” “eye,” “me,” “history”
  • Line 5: “me,” “me,” “identity”
  • Line 6: “Dem tell,” “dat”
  • Line 7: “Dem tell,” “Dick Whittington,” “cat”
  • Line 9: “dem never tell,” “dat”
  • Lines 12-15: “With vision / Lick back / Napoleon / Battalion”
  • Line 17: “born”
  • Line 18: “thorn”
  • Line 20: “beacon”
  • Line 21: “Revolution”
  • Line 22: “Dem tell,” “balloon”
  • Line 24: “Dem tell,” “spoon”
  • Line 25: “dem never tell,” “Maroon”
  • Line 28: “dream”
  • Line 30: “stream”
  • Line 31: “freedom”
  • Line 32: “Dem tell,” “Nelson,” “Waterloo”
  • Line 33: “dem never tell,” “Zulu”
  • Line 34: “Dem tell,” “1492”
  • Line 35: “Caribs,” “Arawaks,” “too”
  • Line 36: “Dem tell,” “lamp”
  • Line 38: “Dem tell,” “ole,” “Cole,” “merry,” “ole soul”
  • Line 39: “dem never tell,” “Seacole”
  • Line 43: “go”
  • Line 44: “no”
  • Line 45: “snow”
  • Line 48: “sunrise”
  • Line 51: “Dem tell me,” “dem,” “tell me”
  • Line 52: “me,” “history”
  • Line 53: “me identity”

Juxtaposition

  • Lines 6-9: “Dem tell me bout 1066 and all dat / Dem tell me bout Dick Whittington and he cat / But Toussaint L’Ouverture / No dem never tell me bout dat”
  • Lines 32-35: “Dem tell me bout Lord Nelson and Waterloo / But dem never tell me bout Shaka de great Zulu / Dem tell me bout Columbus and 1492 / But what happen to de Caribs and de Arawaks too”
  • Lines 36-39: “Dem tell me bout Florence Nightingale and she lamp / And how Robin Hood used to camp / Dem tell me bout ole King Cole was a merry ole soul / But dem never tell me bout Mary Seacole”
  • Lines 40-49

“Checking Out Me History” Vocabulary

Select any word below to get its definition in the context of the poem. The words are listed in the order in which they appear in the poem.

  • Dick Whittington and he cat
  • Toussainnt L'Ouverture
  • First Black Republic
  • Man who discover de balloon
  • Nanny de Maroon
  • See-far woman
  • Fire-woman struggle
  • Lord Nelson
  • Shaka de great Zulu
  • Columbus and 1492
  • Caribs and de Arawaks
  • Florence Nightingale
  • Mary Seacole
  • Crimean War
  • (Location in poem: Line 1: “Dem ”; Line 2: “Dem”; Line 3: “dem”; Line 6: “Dem”; Line 7: “Dem”; Line 9: “dem”; Line 22: “Dem”; Line 24: “Dem”; Line 25: “dem”; Line 32: “Dem”; Line 33: “dem”; Line 34: “Dem”; Line 36: “Dem”; Line 38: “Dem”; Line 39: “dem”; Line 50: “Dem”; Line 51: “Dem,” “dem”)

Form, Meter, & Rhyme Scheme of “Checking Out Me History”

Rhyme scheme, “checking out me history” speaker, “checking out me history” setting, literary and historical context of “checking out me history”, more “checking out me history” resources, external resources.

Further Analysis of Agard's Work — The author Daljit Nagra analyzes "Checking Out Me History" as well as other poems by Agard.

More by John Agard — A critical perspective, full biography, and bibliography of Agard from the British Council.

The Poem in Performance — Another reading of "Checking Out Me History," this time in a live setting.

The Poem Out Loud — Listen to the poem read by Agard himself.

LitCharts on Other Poems by John Agard

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Checking Out Me History

By John Agard

‘Checking Out Me History’ confronts colonial education, celebrating unsung heroes of black history through vibrant dialect.

Nationality: Guyanese

He was chosen for the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2012. His collections include Shoot Me With Flowers.

Key Poem Information

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Central Message: People of colour have been taught a history they cannot relate to at the expense of one they can.

Themes: Identity

Speaker: A disgruntled person of colour, possibly Agard himself.

Emotions Evoked: Anger , Pride , Regret

Poetic Form: Free Verse

Time Period: 21st Century

'Checking Out Me History' expertly uses humor to undermine engrained views of history perpetuated in former colonising nations.

Andrew Walker

Poem Analyzed by Andrew Walker

B.A. Honors in Professional Writing and Communication (Minor in Historical Studies)

When John Agard wrote ‘Checking Out Me History’ (published in 2005), however, he wanted a different voice to be the speaker of the poem — not the reader, and not necessarily himself either, but someone who didn’t already have one. ‘Checking Out Me History’ is filled with intentionally misspelled words which, when pronounced as they are spelled, force the reader to almost take on the accent of the true speaker . Based on the content of the poem, it is reasonable to think Agard’s African-Guyanese upbringing and his outlook on racial and colonial discriminations that made for common themes throughout his works inspires it.

One of the things that could be said to be lacking in the written word is the difficulty in relaying inflection. One of the most common things that can be heard about communication through text is how difficult it is to relay sarcasm through it. This also manifests itself in voice. For the most part, readers of any kind tend to hear the words they read in their own voices. In some ways, this is why poetry can be such a subjective art form — without any voice aside from the reader’s own, those readers are free to draw their own inferences and meanings from the text.

In terms of meaning, ‘ Checking Out Me History’ is a fairly straightforward poem; the voice is the most unique element, but it is filled with a rich historical context that makes up the bulk of the poem’s story, which is, in large part, a colonial story. On both “sides” of the British colonial story are figures whose contributions to their home, culture, or people are significant, and Agard examines both sides to critique blind history and to shed light on some of the most influential historical figures whose names are overshadowed time and time again.

It may be beneficial to do some light reading about some of the historical figures named in the poem in order to get a better sense of who these people were and why Agard is interested or not interested in them. However, it is important to remember that Agard's entire point is that some of these names will be instantly recognizable to readers and some will seem more obscure. To avoid spoiling this effect, I would recommend reading the poem first and then looking up the historical figures after.

Explore Checking Out Me History

  • 1.1 Toussaint L’Ouverture
  • 1.2 Nanny the Maroon
  • 1.3 Shaka kaSenzangakhona
  • 1.4 Mary Seacole
  • 1.5 Checking Out Me History

Checking Out Me History Analysis

Toussaint l’ouverture.

Dem tell me Dem tell me Wha dem want to tell me (…) But Toussaint L’Ouverture No dem never tell me bout dat

The narrator of this poem is introduced through their voice, relayed through words such as “dem” and “wha,” better understood as “them” and “what,” which indicates to the reader immediately that English is not likely the native language of the speaker. So, when they refer to a “dem,” they are likely referring, as a whole, to the community whose language they speak. The reference to “blinding” them against their own identity suggests a colonial relationship between the speaker and “dem.”

Dick Whittington’s Cat is a reference to an English folklore story, suggesting that the narrator has been colonized by English culture.  1066, then, is a likely reference to the Battle of Hastings , a battle between the English and the Normans that resulted in the defeat of English (Anglo-Saxon) forces and significant cultural change for England . The narrator attended an English school and was taught about powerful, heroic figures in English history, but never, they note, about figures such as Toussaint L’Ouverture, a well-known leader of the Haitian Revolution who fought against and defeated racist colonial forces. It was a great source of concern for slavers and a great source of hope for slaves during its time, and L’Ouverture was a defining figure in the movement. And the speaker in ‘ Checking Out Me History’ notes that they never learned about such figures, but were only taught of the glory of England instead.

There isn’t an enforced structure that dictates the poem, but there is rhyme throughout much of it; in these stanzas , there is a loose rhyme at the end of the second and third stanzas, without a syllable count to solidify any kind of structure. Even this isn’t an enforced structure; parts of ‘ Checking Out Me History’ change wildly in structure from those that precede them — such as the following verse .

Lines 10-21

Toussaint A slave With vision (…) To de French Toussaint de beacon Of de Haitian Revolution

The next set of lines reveals that the narrator knows exactly who Toussaint is, and also that he looks up to and respects the historic figure a great deal. The structure of the poem changes temporarily here, taking on a faster pace , and an almost chant-like quality when the rhyming begins to take hold (“Lick back / Napoleon / Battalion / And first Black / Republic born / Toussaint de thorn” — try reading it out loud). He points out, for instance, that Toussaint was able to defeat (“lick back”) Napoleon in battle, a strong contradiction to the highly respected image of Napoleon that would have been especially prominent in a colonial schooling environment. The speaker knows Toussaint as a beacon of hope, a light in the darkness. The language and structure of this verse are all that is required to indicate that the narrator believes it is far more important to learn about figures with vision and heart who fight for what they believe in than to learn about folklore tales. Yet , this was part of the colonization process, and the narrator is speaking for those who do not know about the figures that they aren’t being taught in school.

Nanny the Maroon

Lines 22-31.

Dem tell me bout de man who discover de balloon And de cow who jump over de moon (…) Hopeful stream To freedom river

These lines repeat the themes from the last few but in a much more pronounced way. The reference to The Cow Who Jumped Over The Moon is especially noteworthy, being such a trivial and unimportant story that it pales in comparison to the vast majority of history from anywhere. The narrator notes in their school that they’ve learned about the man who discovered balloons (whose name isn’t even mentioned, unlike the historical figures important to the speaker), but not about figures such as Nanny the Maroon.

Nanny the Maroon was a Jamaican slave born to the Asante people in the late seventeenth century. Today, she is a Jamaican National Hero , for her role in founding the Nanny Town community. She escaped from slavery with several close friends and fled to Blue Mountain, where she scouted out strategic locations to build communities for escaped slaves. Once British soldiers caught on and discovered the location of many escaped slaves, they brought down the might of their military onto the town. Nanny chose the location well, however, and the town proved impossible to capture, despite overwhelming numbers of odds in favour of the British. Finally, peace was agreed upon, and the community survived and thrived.

Nanny of the Maroons was one of the earliest leaders of slave resistance in the Americas, and one of the very few women to hold the role — and yet, the school would rather teach the speaker about nursery rhymes and English inventors. The second stanza in this section of ‘ Checking Out Me History’ highlights much of the perceived character of Nanny the Maroon, using nature-based imagery to bring a positive influence to the picture. She was a “hopeful stream” that led to a “river” of freedom, a fiery force with a mountain dream. These descriptions are designed to make freedom the most natural thing in the world. They very strongly capture the image of a determined, intelligent, influential woman and ask why no one learns about her. From the perspective of a culturally oppressed individual, this verse is inspirational and very saddening.

Shaka kaSenzangakhona

Lines 32-35.

Dem tell me bout Lord Nelson and Waterloo (…) But what happen to de Caribs and de Arawaks too

For these lines, the histories of English fighters and battles continue. Lord Horatio Nelson, an officer of the British Navy famous for losing an arm and an eye before losing his life after continually fighting and achieving victory after victory during the Napoleonic Wars, is something the speaker learns about. The Battle of Waterloo, where Napoleon was defeated and forced to abdicate his position as French Emperor is also mentioned. The verse mentions Shaka kaSenzangakhona, one of the most well-known monarchs of the Zulu people, and this suggests something on the history of the narrator, because Shaka never made contact with the European people. Unlike Nanny of the Maroons or Toussaint L’Ouverture, Shaka is a historic figure who revolutionized African communities alone, and is not a figure one would expect to learn about in an English school regardless (except perhaps in instruction concerning warfare, as Shaka’s greatest achievements were in his revolutionary fighting tactics). What this indicates to the reader is that the speaker is well educated and versed within their home community and feels distant; it isn’t that they’re only receiving one side of the colonial story, it’s that it’s the only story they hear, and they don’t like it.

The other thing this verse notes is that, unsurprisingly, the class learns about Christopher Columbus, and it is here that they do learn about other cultures — specifically the Carib Islanders and the Arawak peoples. Both groups were indigenous peoples native to the Caribbean, and both suffered enormously after European contact, vanishing entirely as ethnic groups, and only surviving in small communities thereafter.

Mary Seacole

Lines 36-39.

Dem tell me bout Florence Nightingale and she lamp (…) But dem never tell me bout Mary Seacole

The history of the Crimean War, a natural topic in an English classroom environment, would be missing some of its significance if Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole were not mentioned — except that Nightingale was British and Seacole was Jamaican, and this makes all the difference. Florence Nightingale was a highly reputable and devoted nurse during the Crimean War, known for making rounds in the middle of the night (with her lamp) to care for wounded soldiers. Seacole performed a similar task, setting up a British-style hotel area near the battlefields so soldiers could recover their health in a comfortable and familiar environment. Both women came to great repute during the war among soldiers, who were grateful for their commitment — but the speaker is only learning about Nightingale, amidst nonsensical stories of Robin Hood and “ole King Cole.”

The line concerning that merry soul is such a lighthearted bit that it almost feels out of place. The line could easily be a part of an old cheerful song, and this is the idea — John Agard is juxtaposing the nature of what the speaker is learning with the nature of what they are not learning. Here it is more important to know that “ole King Cole was a merry ole soul” than it is to learn about one of the most prominent helpers in the Crimean War, who was more often than not overshadowed by Nightingale.

Lines 40-49

From Jamaica She travel far (…) A yellow sunrise To the dying

Once again we see that the speaker is very familiar with Seacole’s story, including the fact that she was rejected by the British government when she requested to go overseas to help England troops. This didn’t stop her — she traveled on her own, with her own money, and set up the hotel herself, and wound up destitute upon her return. Despite this, in one of the more abstract and poetic aspects of ‘ Checking Out Me History’ , she is described as “a yellow sunrise / to the dying,” a metaphor that suggests she is daylight to those who are not going to see the light of day again. Similar to the earlier verse comparing Nanny of the Maroon’s desire for freedom to the natural world, this verse makes Seacole seem like an angel, and shows favour for her in the same fast-paced, chant-like way as the verses for L’Ouverture.

Lines 50-53

Dem tell me (…) I carving out me identity

The final lines of ‘ Checking Out Me History’ reflect the first verse in nature, adding on two very important lines, wherein the narrator declares that they are unwilling to accept one side of the story of history, and are searching for the truth behind what they are told in a classroom. This suggests that it’s possible that the figures examined in the poem are not conjured from the memory of childhood stories, but are rather being researched as the poem is being written, and as the narrator “carves out their identity,” and discovers who they are culturally, despite the desires of their colonizers. This nicely summarizes a central theme to the poem — reflected in the title, of carving out one’s own history, and deciding for themselves who they’d like to be. Much of colonial society was about being told what one’s place in the world was by someone else — in this verse, the narrator is breaking free.

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Sully :)

in the sub-heading of Shaka kaSenzangakhona, it is mispelled, it is Shaka kaSenzangakhona not Shaka kaSenzangakhone (the e at the end) :))

Lee-James Bovey

Thanks – I have amended this.

qasim ur rehman

look at andrew man so inspirational

Isn’t he?

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Walker, Andrew. "Checking Out Me History by John Agard". Poem Analysis , https://poemanalysis.com/john-agard/checking-out-me-history/ . Accessed 5 July 2024.

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Checking Out Me History ( AQA GCSE English Literature )

Revision note.

Deb Orrock

Each poetry anthology in the GCSE contains 15 poems, and in the poetry question in the exam you will be given one poem on the paper - printed in full - and asked to compare this given poem to one other from the anthology. You will not have access to the other poems in the exam, so you will have to know them very well from memory. Fifteen poems is a lot to learn. However, understanding four things will enable you to produce a top-mark response:

  • The meaning of the poem
  • The ideas and messages the poet wanted to convey
  • How the poet conveys these ideas and messages through their methods
  • How do these ideas compare and contrast with the ideas and themes of other poems in the anthology

Below is a guide to Checking Out Me History by John Agard, from the Power and Conflict anthology. It includes:

  • Overview : a breakdown of the poem, including its possible meanings and interpretations
  • Writer’s methods : an exploration of the poet’s techniques and methods
  • Context : an exploration of the context of the poem, relevant to its themes
  • What to compare it to : ideas about which poems to compare it to in the exam

It is really important that you read the question on the exam paper carefully, and highlight the focus of the question. The question often contains the words “power” or “conflict”, but not always. It might ask you to compare the theme of identity or people’s individual experiences in the given poem and one other from the anthology. Always make sure that you focus on the question asked, rather than just a general comparison of everything you know about the given poem and another from the anthology.

In order to answer an essay question on any poem, it is essential that you understand what it is about. This section includes:

  • The poem in a nutshell
  • A ‘translation’ of the poem, section-by-section
  • A commentary of each of these sections, outlining Agard’s intention and message

Checking Out Me History in a nutshell

Checking Out Me History is a modern poem published in 2007 by the poet John Agard, who was born in British Guiana, now called Guyana, in the Caribbean. The poem uses non-standard phonetic   spelling and mixes Guyanese Creole   with standard English to represent the voice of a black man who recounts all of the white historical figures he was taught as a child at school and is frustrated that important figures from black history were not mentioned. He, therefore, resolves to discover more about the history and heritage relevant to him. The title of the poem is thus ironic , as it is not “his” history he is “checking out”.

Checking Out Me History breakdown

“ Dem tell me

Dem tell me

Wha dem want to tell me

Bandage up me eye with me own history

Blind me to me own identity”

Translation

  • The speaker repeats “Dem” meaning “them” or “they”
  • “Them” or “they” refers to his white teachers
  • He says that they teach him what they want to teach him, controlling what people learn
  • They cover up colonised   people’s history from them, blinding people like the speaker to their true history and identity

Agard’s intention

  • The narrator of this poem is introduced through their voice and the deliberate use of the Guyanese Creole dialect
  • The poet is referring to the English curriculum taught by British educators, which was written by white people and biased towards white history
  • The use of non-standard English is used to show his own culture and background, which he feels is not acknowledged by the English curriculum
  • It also reflects his pride in his own culture and background

                                                                              

“Dem tell me bout 1066 and all dat

dem tell me bout Dick Whittington and he cat

But Toussaint L’Ouverture

no dem never tell me bout dat”

  • The narrator then references the Battle of Hastings in 1066, and the childhood story of Dick Whittington and his cat
  • But he was never taught about black historical figures, such as Toussaint L’Ouverture
  • The poet references white historical figures or events in each quatrain   and contrasts this with a black historical figure who isn’t included in the curriculum
  • This is to show that these white historical references were irrelevant to him
  • Toussaint L’Ouverture was a slave and the leader of the Haitian Revolution
  • He beat back the (white) French emperor Napoleon , which is how Haiti gained independence from the French and became the first black democracy   in the Americas
  • He transformed the lives of many slaves

Lines 10-21

with vision

and first Black

Republic born

Toussaint de thorn

to de French

Toussaint de beacon

of de Haitian Revolution”

  • The speaker then “teaches” us about Toussaint L’Ouverture
  • He was a slave who rose up to beat back Napoleon’s battalions   leading to Haiti’s independence
  • He was a thorn in the French’s side, meaning a constant pain, and a figure-head of the Haitian revolution
  • The poet deliberately changes to italics here to contrast the difference between white and black history
  • Toussaint as a beacon implies he is illuminating the poet’s true historical identity
  • His history is important to him, as demonstrated by his knowledge of this historical figure more relevant to the speaker and the poet

Lines 22-25

“Dem tell me bout de man who discover de balloon

and de cow who jump over de moon

Dem tell me bout de dish run away with de spoon

but dem never tell me bout Nanny de maroon”

  • They are taught about trivial things such as the man who discovered the balloon and the nursery rhyme “Hey Diddle Diddle”
  • But they didn’t teach him about Nanny de Maroon, a Jamaican slave born to the Asante   people in the late 17th century
  • Even nursery rhymes and English inventors are prioritised over such important black historical figures

Lines 26-31

see-far woman

of mountain dream

fire-woman struggle

hopeful stream

to freedom river”

  • Nanny was a “see-far” woman, meaning a visionary
  • She founded her own town for other escaped slaves in the mountains of Jamaica
  • Today, she is a Jamaican national hero
  • Again, Agard changes into italics to highlight the difference in historical narratives
  • Nanny de Maroon’s actions were a source of hope for other enslaved people, like a stream that flows into a deeper river of freedom
  • The reference to “fire” again suggests illuminating the speaker’s true history
  • The reference to struggle highlights that her journey and fight were not easy

Lines 32-39

“Dem tell me bout Lord Nelson and Waterloo

but dem never tell me bout Shaka de great Zulu

Dem tell me bout Columbus and 1492

but what happen to de Caribs and de Arawaks too

Dem tell be bout Florence Nightingale and she lamp

and how Robin Hood used to camp

Dem tell me bout ole King Cole was a merry ole soul

but dem never tell me bout Mary Seacole”

  • The narrator then goes on to list other important figures and events in white history
  • Admiral Lord Nelson defeated Napoleon in The Battle of Waterloo
  • The speaker is not taught about him
  • However, the indigenous   peoples of the Caribbean, the “Caribs” and the “Arawaks”, were mostly killed and displaced after Columbus’s arrival
  • The British taught the speaker about Florence Nightingale, who famously nursed injured soldiers by the light of her lamp during the Crimean War
  • They were even taught about mythological figures  like Robin Hood, and another nursery rhyme, “Old King Cole”
  • But the British never taught the speaker about Mary Seacole
  • Shaka is a historical figure who never made any contact with European people
  • He is a historic figure who revolutionised   African communities alone, and not someone one would expect to learn about in an English school
  • Agard is indicating that the narrator is very knowledgeable about the type of history that matters to him

Lines 40-49

“From Jamaica

she travel far

to the Crimean War

she volunteer to go

and even when de British said no

she still brave the Russian snow

a healing star

among the wounded

a yellow sunrise

to the dying”

  • Mary Seacole was from Jamaica and had to travel far to get to the Crimean War
  • She volunteered to help but initially was denied by the British War Office
  • She then travelled independently to Russia to help heal the wounded
  • She gave hope, like a healing star and a bright sunrise, to sick and dying men
  • Again, Agard deliberately changes the font to teach us about the history that matters more to him
  • He once again uses the image of illumination to highlight this aspect of history

Lines 50-53

“Dem tell me

Dem tell me wha dem want to tell me

But now I checking out me own history

I carving out me identity”

  • The speaker repeats the opening line of the poem, that the British only taught colonised students their version of history
  • However, the speaker is learning the history of his own people
  • By doing so, the speaker is creating his own identity
  • This marks a turning point in the poem, from “dem” to “I”
  • This shows the speaker taking ownership of his own identity
  • The poem is now about him, rather than them

The exam question will ask you to compare how the given poem presents a key theme with another one from the anthology. It is always worth starting your answer using the wording of the question, summarising the key theme in the poem. This demonstrates to the examiner that you have understood what the question is asking of you, but also that you have a good understanding of the poems themselves. For example, “Checking Out Me History explores the key themes of identity and inequality. This theme can be linked to…” . See the section What To Compare It To for further suggestions.

Writer’s Methods

Although this section is organised into three separate sections - form, structure and language - it is important to take an integrated  approach to AO2, focusing on the main themes and ideas of the poem and then evaluating how Agard’s choices of language, structure and form contribute to these ideas. In essence, how and why the poet has made the choices they have, in relation to their intentions and message. 

Focusing on the poet’s main ideas, rather than individual poetic techniques, will gain you far more marks. In the below sections, all analysis is arranged by theme, and includes Agard’s intentions behind his choices in terms of:

To gain the highest marks in this question, your use of subject terminology should be judicious . This means you should judge what is important to include and use subject terminology only when directly relevant to your analysis of the themes of the poem. The last thing examiners want to see is what they call “technique spotting”, where a student identifies the use of a metaphor without any analysis about how the poet’s choice to use such a thing contributes to their overall message.

The poem is written as a form of dramatic monologue , in which the speaker uses oral poetry  to teach the reader his history, as opposed to the history imposed upon him

Dramatic monologue from the point of view of the speaker, presumably someone who was educated in the British system

The speaker is able to take back “control” over the history that matters most to him

Agard deliberately structures the poem into two distinct styles through the use of italics. This shows the separation between the history he was taught and black history , which is more important to his own identity

Poem alternates between two structures, marked by two different fonts Agard juxtaposes sometimes frivolous British and white history taught in colonial schools with powerful black history
This implies that these people have been ignored or purposefully omitted from British education, as the British chose to glorify their own historical figures
dealing with the history the speaker was forced to learn use simple rhyming couplets The simple, almost child-like rhymes emphasise the superficial nature and lack of relevance of this history to the speaker
Each of these stanzas starts with “Dem tell me” The repetition suggests frustration at the colonial control which has dominated the speaker’s life, and which now dominates these stanzas of the poem
Agard seems to believe that if you control what people learn about the past, then you control how people think and what they think about themselves
Each stanza ends with reference to a black historical figure This suggests the lack of prominence given to these figures
These stanzas also repeatedly use the connective “but” This is used to tie together black and white history. They cannot be separated and one should not be ignored over the other
Final stanza links back to the first, and contrasts “Blind me to me own identity” with “I carving out me own identity” This shows the speaker’s journey to find his own identity
The longer verses concentrate on someone important in black history Agard is using an unconventional form to write about unconventional ideas
The lines are shorter and written in free verse, sounding more like a speech The tone is not mocking, contrasting with the poet’s mocking tone in the stanzas referencing nursery rhymes, as if these were important
Agard uses non-standard phonetic spelling Creole is the native language of an area which has arisen from attempting to speak two different languages
This shows how the speaker is resisting the traditions of the English language and the restrictions imposed by colonial rule

The poem deliberately does not use punctuation
 
Punctuation can be interpreted as a set of rules used to shape and restrict communication
By not using it, Agard allows the listener or reader to interpret the poem in their own way and attach their own set of rules, and identity, to it, therefore resisting oppression

Agard uses his choice of techniques and language to contrast the importance and relevance of the British or white history taught in colonised schools with less prominent black history

Agard uses violent metaphors, such as “blind me” and “bandage up me eye” to depict the impact of not learning about history relevant to the speaker’s identity This emphasises the deliberate nature of the abuse inflicted by colonial control
Verses about black history are full of positive and nature imagery, such as “mountain dream” and “yellow sunrise” This suggests the longevity and power of these historical figures, just like the longevity and power of nature
The rich imagery used in these verses juxtaposes with the childish lexis in the other stanzas
This reflects the beautiful and complex nature of black history
Agard repeatedly uses the motif of light in the black history verses. For example, “Toussaint de beacon”, “fire-woman”, “a healing star” and “a yellow sunrise” This implies that these figures are a source of guidance and inspiration
They illuminate the history that has been hidden or deliberately omitted from the curriculum
At the end of the poem, the poet uses the present continuous tense “I carving” This suggests that the search for his own identity is an on-going process
The deliberate choice of the verb “carving” also suggests that it is a difficult and sometimes painful journey

Examiners are clear that context should not be written about separately. It is therefore important that you do not write about context separately, or include irrelevant biographical information about John Agard or the historical figures mentioned in the poem. The best way to include context is to start with the key themes and ideas in the poem, and then include an exploration of why the writer may have chosen to address these themes and ideas. This section has therefore been divided into two relevant themes that Agard explores:

Cultural identity

Oppression and control

  • Agard was born there and received a British education
  • When Guyana became independent, he realised how much of his identity he had been deprived  of
  • The title of the poem reflects the subject matter
  • The poem written from the perspective of someone from a Caribbean culture, as the title is written in a Creole dialect
  • The use of the words “Checking Out” implies a less formal way of learning about history, rather than studying it at school
  • On both “sides” of the British-colonial story are figures whose contributions to their home, culture or people are significant
  • Agard examines both sides to shed light on some of the most influential historical figures whose names are overshadowed over and over again
  • The poet is suggesting that colonial education cannot be trusted because it does not have the interests of colonised people in mind
  • These are people the poet can relate to and wants to learn about
  • They represent freedom from the oppression of the colonised education system
  • The poet may also be questioning why people don’t know about minority groups from the Caribbean, such as the Caribs and Arawaks
  • This suggests that people may be ignorant  to his cultural identity
  • The poem implies that denying people access to their history is a form of oppression
  • It stops people from being inspired by history that is relevant to them and establishing a separate identity (to that of their colonisers)
  • It is possible that British and other colonised powers deliberately omitted Toussaint L’Ouverture from their teachings
  • They might have feared that other oppressed peoples might learn from this example and rise up
  • In order to reclaim that identity, the speaker argues, colonised peoples must reclaim their history
  • The key to fighting back is for colonised people to investigate and learn about their own history
  • If you control what people learn about the past, then you can control how people think and what they think about themselves
  • Whoever controls the past controls the present
  • The poet is therefore arguing that, without a history and a voice, we have no identity
  • The poem is therefore intended to apply to all people living under oppression and being denied their cultural identity

What to Compare it to

The essay you are required to write in your exam should be an integrated comparison of the ideas and themes explored in two of your anthology poems (the one given on the exam paper and one other). It is therefore essential that you revise the poems together, in pairs, to understand how each poet presents key ideas and themes, in comparison to other poets in the anthology. Given that Checking Out Me History explores ideas of identity, oppression and control , the following comparisons would be a good place to start:

Checking Out Me History and London

Checking Out Me History and The Émigrée

For each pair of poems, you will find:

  • The comparison in a nutshell
  • Similarities between the ideas presented in each poem
  • Differences between the ideas presented in each poem
  • Evidence and analysis of these similarities and differences

You will be expected not only to explore this poem in depth, but make perceptive comparisons to themes, language, form and structure used in one other poem from the anthology that also explores themes of identity, oppression and control. It is therefore important not to just memorise a series of quotations, but to have a thorough knowledge of all of the poems and their themes. It is also essential that you ensure you write about two poems (the one given to you and one other) in your exam response. Only writing about the poem given on the paper will get you a low mark.

Comparison in a nutshell:

This comparison provides the opportunity to compare the poets’ attitudes towards the misuse of power by those in authority. However, while Agard gives a solution, Blake does not, demonstrating their differing viewpoints on the potential for cultural and social change.

Similarities:

Agard challenges the authority of the English curriculum, and British and other colonial powers, through the deliberate use of phonetic spelling, lack of punctuation and free verse

Blake challenges the “blackening church” for not fulfilling their obligations and helping the poor

The repetition of “Dem tell me” suggests the speaker’s frustration and anger at the restrictions imposed on what he is able to learn by the British education system

The monarchy is also criticised as being responsible for the misery and suffering of war

Agard uses nature imagery to imply the powerful force of his history and its ability to outlive the history and identity colonised education tried to impose upon him

Blake’s London criticises attempts by authorities to control and own nature, which are ultimately futile

He describes Nanny de Maroon as “a healing star” and “a yellow sunrise” to symbolise her power and inspiration

Blake juxtaposes “chartered” and “flow” in the line “Near where the charter’d Thames does flow”, emphasising how impossible it is for humans to ultimately have power over nature

The authority he is criticising cannot ultimately control forces of nature such as a star and the sunrise

Despite being mapped and owned (“chartered”), the Thames continues to “flow” naturally. It cannot be controlled

Agard uses simple stanzas and references to folk tales and nursery rhymes

Poem takes a simple, four stanza form using standard English

These contrast with the free verse and rich imagery employed in the stanzas dealing with black history

Blake wanted his poetry to feel accessible to all members of society

The poem is also a form of oral poetry, designed to teach by being performed, in order to convey a message

The language is almost conversational in tone

Both poets’ message is one of social change, so both poems have tones of frustration and anger

Differences:

Agard focuses on prominent people in black history, using a change of font to italics and a change of style to emphasise them

London has a cyclical  structure, as suffering is the focus at the start and at the end of the poem

This also suggests he is breaking the confining and controlling structure of the colonised education system

The quatrains and regular ABAB rhyme scheme imply that the suffering is repetitive and never-ending - he does not offer a solution

Agard uses imagery of light to show a contrast and hope, emphasising the “them” and “us” and the fact that people can overthrow oppression

Blake uses bleak imagery, such as “mind-forg’d manacles” to illustrate the hopelessness of the situation, and that people are trapped

This would be an interesting comparison because the speaker’s reflections in The Émigrée are on her own sense of identity, in a similar way as Agard does in Checking Out Me History. Both speakers suffer a loss of identity as a result of circumstances, or what they have or have not been told.

The violent language connotations used by Agard, such as “Blind me” and “Bandage up me eye” imply the conflict between the speaker’s culture and the one being imposed on him by colonial rule

Conflict is shown by Rumens with the aggressive undertones of her choice of language, such as “I am branded by” and “They accuse me”

The importance of language to identity is evidence through Agard’s use of Creole to represent the different cultures which have influenced him

In Rumens’s poem, the speaker carried “That child’s vocabulary”, suggesting the strong connection to the language of their childhood and their sense of identity

Agard uses light imagery to represent hope, freedom and inspiration

Rumens also uses light imagery to represent a dreamlike, idealised childhood, representing all that was good

For example, “Toussaint de beacon”, “A shining star” and “A yellow sunrise”

For example, “an impression of sunlight”, “the graceful slopes glow” and “It tastes of sunlight”

The speaker in this poem is longing for a better sense of his history and identity

The speaker in The Émigrée is also longing for a return, but she has “no passport, there’s no way back at all” suggesting that even though she feels a sense of cultural belonging and a desire to return to her childhood home, there is a barrier there

In this way, both poems have barriers to identity

The speaker in Agard’s poem is angry and frustrated about the education imposed on him in his childhood, and what was left out

The speaker reminisces fondly about her childhood - uses light imagery in “an impression of sunlight” “the white streets” and “it tastes of sunlight”

He is discussing the historic omittance of a large chunk of history that was never taught to him

The speaker in Rumens’s poem is reflecting on somewhere she has left, but knows her own personal history

The speaker in Agard’s poem does not remember the past he was taught fondly

The speaker reflects with fondness and nostalgia on the relationship between where she is now and where she wants to be

He wants to forge ahead with “carving out” his own history and identity

Her memory of the past is stronger than where she is now

These differences demonstrate that identity is very individual

It is a good idea to outline your choice of second poem in your introduction to your response, with a clear overview of the overarching themes within both poems. You can then use the theme to move between both poems to provide the substance to illustrate your arguments. 

However, this does not mean that you cannot focus on one poem first, and then the other, linking ideas back to the main poem. You should choose whichever structure suits you best, as long as comparison is embedded and ideas for both texts are well-developed.

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Author: Deb Orrock

Deb is a graduate of Lancaster University and The University of Wolverhampton. After some time travelling and a successful career in the travel industry, she re-trained in education, specialising in literacy. She has over 16 years’ experience of working in education, teaching English Literature, English Language, Functional Skills English, ESOL and on Access to HE courses. She has also held curriculum and quality manager roles, and worked with organisations on embedding literacy and numeracy into vocational curriculums. She now manages a post-16 English curriculum as well as writing educational content and resources.

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What I love… Education based blog by @susansenglish

Why I love…Comparing Poems: AQA ‘Checking Out Me History’ with ‘The Emigree’

I’ve written comparison essays for a few of the poems in the Power and Conflict Anthology for AQA (see links at bottom) and undertook in my last post to think about how to compare “Checking Out Me History” with all the poems (not full essays – just brief thoughts on this.) See here:  Why I love…Comparison Revision Thoughts. Checking Out Me History and…(All P&C poems)

However, in this I decided (rightfully or not) during this process that ‘The Emigree’ would be the easiest choice to compare and I’ve attempted this below. It may be interesting or useful. Do let me know.

I’ve linked the word document here: Comparing Checking Out with The Emigree

Comparing: Checking Out Me History with The Emigree

How is conflict over identity presented in Checking Out Me History and one other poem from The Anthology?

Both poems ‘The Emigree’ and ‘Checking Out Me History’ explore a feeling of conflict over the persona’s own individual identity as a result of displacement and historical inaccuracy. Rumens and Agard appear to reflect with melancholy on the past, long for something different and understand the disparity that they live with.

Rumens poem is relatively short with three even stanzas of eight lines long, while Agard’s poem is much longer and more fragmented, perhaps showing the relative fragmentation of the history he was told about or learnt about in school. Rumens poem meanwhile reflects the stability of her life and her history while allowing to show that she is in stanza one discussing leaving her homeland as a child and in stanza three reflecting on the fact that there is no way back to this place. The poems are dissimilar in this respect as Agard is not reflecting on something or somewhere that he left but instead discussing the historic leaving out of a large chunk of history that was never taught to him. In this way Rumens knows her own personal history and reflects on this and Agard questions why he did not know the wider societal history of a whole swathe of people. Agard’s questioning is further reinforced in the italicised, indentations in the poem as these sections of the poem show the other side of history, the side that Agard wants to know, but that was not taught in school. It seems as if Agard is longing for something different in his understanding of history and that he knows history taught in school is whitewashed and not truly reflective of the great Black people who are deserving of a place in the history books but that are omitted in favour of a more colonial reflection. Rumens too is longing for something else as she uses the first person “I have no passport, there’s no way back at all” to show that even though she feels a sense of cultural belonging and a desire to return to the place of her childhood there is a barrier there. In this way both poems have barriers: ‘Checking Out Me History’ could be what we are taught or not taught and ‘The Emigree’ may be the physical barrier of not being able to legally return to somewhere. This longing for something different is further reinforced through Rumens use of the verb “branded” which has connotations of something being burnt into your skin, something permanent and no-removable as when the poet uses this phrase it is an “impression of sunlight” which has sunk into her psyche and which she cannot get away from, or indeed doesn’t want to get away from. It is as if she pines for this feeling of belonging in a country where she no longer does belong, which is similar to Agard as he repeats the refrain “Dem tell me” at the beginning of the poem with a tone of cynicism as he wants to know not just what he is told but everything about his “own history” that he has not been told. The metaphorical “bandage up me eye” and the use of colloquial language reinforces the idea that Agard hasn’t been told something significant. It is almost as if his longing is for the truth about what happened to his people, as opposed to the nursery rhymes that he was fed. While appearing cynical about the history he was told, he doesn’t seem angry just accepts that this is how it was for him, which is similar in ‘The Emigree’ as she doesn’t seem angered that she is no longer welcome, just sad and reflective that this is the situation she is in. In this way both poems reflect in a calm and rational way on a longing for something different, although this seems to be tinged with melancholy.

Agard is a black British man and he reflected in an interview that he is pleased that his poems encourage people to think about and talk about inter-racial connections and this can be seen in the way he challenges what he was learnt about white history and black history. It is with a feeling of melancholy that Agard references the Battle of Hastings “Dem tell me about 1066 and all dat” as if it is something that every child will know about. The connotations of all dat” seem to be it needs no further explanation as every person who has been through the British education system will have knowledge of what happened in Medieval England. The melancholic tone increases in “But Toussaint L’Ouverture no dem never tell me bout dat” particularly as the enjambment carries on to Agard telling the story of “Toussaint” in italics, showing that he was missed out of the history books and that his story needs embellishment, unlike “1066” which is very little information but which tells a whole significant historic story. Interestingly, we never establish who “dem” is, they appear to be a collective pronoun for everyone who has written history, taught history or it could be the systemic failure to ensure black people are enriched with knowledge about their own past. In the same way in ‘The Emigree’ we have third party information about her homeland which she seems to dismiss “may be at war” and “may be sick with tyrants” to show that she still feels melancholic about having left it. Rumens stated that the poem is about the conflict between imagination and conventions which could mean that the power of the imagination is more potent in the poem than adhering to the rules of society. This seems likely as throughout the poem the persona is reflecting with extreme nostalgia on the relationship between where she is now and where she wants to be. Her memory of the place seems stronger than where she is now. Both Agard and Rumens reflect on the conflict humans have over their identity based on what they have been told, what they can imagine and what they want to know or be or do.

Disparity appears evident in both poems. This is reflected through the use of metaphorical distance and barriers in “as time rolls its tanks” and “close like waves” making it seem as if what she has left behind was precious, but that she can still see it, imagine it and enjoy it, even though ironically this is all in the imagination. While Agard disparity is clearer when he reflects on nursery rhymes such as ‘Hey Diddle Diddle’ which seem nonsensical and childish in comparison to the tales of “Nanny de maroon” which are never told to him. This is also reinforced in further tales of famous women both white and black which juxtapose each other. “Florence Nightingale and she lamp” is the colloquial retelling of the famous nurse who revolutionised nursing and is lauded as being an agent of change and an angel of mercy. However, “Mary Seacole” who was equally worthy of praise for the same bravery and nursing accolades was ignored and her story never told. This disparity shows that historical black people’s tales have been overlooked, ignored and almost shunned, which shows that society still has a long way to go to change and become equal. The disparity is not as evident in ‘The Emigree’ but it still exists. However, Rumens third and final stanza shows a darker outlook on life and “They accuse me of being dark in their free city.” which seems to bring in the darker side of humanity. The impersonal pronoun “they” creates a sense that anyone could be accusing her and anyone could be accused. This seems similar to the re-writing of history in ‘Checking Out Me History’ where Agard also doesn’t explicitly mention colour or race but instead alludes throughout to the way race has shaped history, what he was told and the fact that he is “carving out me identity” implying that he has to seek out the stories and he is responsible for owning those in the same way that Rumens persona is responsible for allowing her imagination to run free.

Rumens and Agard both create narratives around the past and the use of the imagination to explore what was or what could have been, they both tell tales of being displaced (Agard from his own history, Rumens as an imaginative flight of fancy about what it is like to be displaced). However, they both have an important message about identity and the conflict that is inherent in owning your own identity. Rumens poems is melancholic and reflective and the message seems to be to embrace your imagination while Agard is more grounded and seems to portray a need to know concrete facts and ideas about yourself. In this way the poems explore a conflict over identity in complex and different ways, showing that identity is very individual.

Other Comparison Blogs and AQA Anthology blogs are linked below:

Why I love…Revising Power and Conflict: Comparing Bayonet Charge & Exposure with @FlipsCoCards

Why I love…Comparing Tissue and The Emigree

Why I love…Comparing in the AQA Anthology: Poppies and War Photographer

Why I love…Comparing Poems: AQA Charge of the Light Brigade and Bayonet Charge

Why I love…Comparing Poems: AQA Exposure by Owen with Storm on the Island by Heaney

Why I love…Comparing Poems: AQA Extract from the Prelude and Storm on the Island

Why I love…Comparing AQA poems a series: Ozymandias and My Last Duchess

Why I love… AQA Comparisons Series: An Introduction

Why I love…AQA Power & Conflict: Developing subject knowledge

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English Studies

This website is dedicated to English Literature, Literary Criticism, Literary Theory, English Language and its teaching and learning.

“Checking Out Me History” by John Agard: A Critical Analysis

“Checking Out Me History” by John Agard was first published in 1989 within his collection “Mangoes and Bullets”.

"Checking Out Me History" by John Agard: A Critical Analysis

Introduction: “Checking Out Me History” by John Agard

Table of Contents

“Checking Out Me History” by John Agard was first published in 1989 within his collection “Mangoes and Bullets”. The poem challenges the omissions and biases of a Eurocentric education system, highlighting the absence of black historical figures. Agard’s skillful use of both Caribbean Creole and standard English subverts linguistic power structures and underscores the complexity of his cultural identity. With its assertive tone and striking imagery, “Checking Out Me History” stands as a seminal work in discussions surrounding identity, postcolonial education, and the enduring legacies of colonialism.

Text: “Checking Out Me History” by John Agard

Dem tell me

Wha dem want to tell me

Bandage up me eye with me own history

Blind me to my own identity

Dem tell me bout 1066 and all dat

dem tell me bout Dick Whittington and he cat

But Touissant L’Ouverture

no dem never tell me bout dat

with vision

and first Black

Republic born

Toussaint de thorn

to de French

Toussaint de beacon

of de Haitian Revolution

Dem tell me bout de man who discover de balloon

and de cow who jump over de moon

Dem tell me bout de dish run away with de spoon

but dem never tell me bout Nanny de maroon

see-far woman

of mountain dream

fire-woman struggle

hopeful stream

to freedom river

Dem tell me bout Lord Nelson and Waterloo

but dem never tell me bout Shaka de great Zulu

Dem tell me bout Columbus and 1492

but what happen to de Caribs and de Arawaks too

Dem tell me bout Florence Nightingale and she lamp

and how Robin Hood used to camp

Dem tell me bout ole King Cole was a merry ole soul

but dem never tell me bout Mary Seacole

From Jamaica

she travel far

to the Crimean War

she volunteer to go

and even when de British said no

she still brave the Russian snow

a healing star

among the wounded

a yellow sunrise

to the dying

Dem tell me wha dem want to tell me

But now I checking out me own history

I carving out me identity

Annotations: “Checking Out Me History” by John Agard

* “Dem” (representing those in power) focus on a history that blinds the speaker to their true heritage.
* Rather than focusing on European history, the speaker emphasizes the importance of the Haitian Revolution and Toussaint’s role as a liberator.
* The contrast further highlights how Black resistance leaders are erased from common history lessons.
* Figures like Lord Nelson are celebrated, while African leaders like Shaka Zulu remain in obscurity. The speaker also references the whitewashing of the genocide of the Caribs and Arawaks.
* Seacole’s vital role as a Jamaican nurse during the Crimean War underscores the erasure of important Black figures from mainstream historical narratives.
* This represents an act of resistance and reclamation of cultural heritage.

Themes and Analysis

  • Impact of Colonialism: The poem exposes how systems of power and education can manipulate history, leading to a biased representation of the past.
  • Reclaiming Identity: The speaker resists imposed narratives and actively seeks a richer understanding of history, emphasizing the role of Black figures in shaping events.
  • Language: Agard utilizes Caribbean Creole, challenging standard English as the ‘correct’ way to express ideas. This reflects the poem’s theme of resisting dominant narratives.

Literary And Poetic Devices: “Checking Out Me History” by John Agard

Repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words.“Blind me to my own identity” (repetition of the ‘m’ sound)
Deliberate repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of lines/clauses.“Dem tell me…” (emphasizes imposed history)
Caribbean CreoleUse of a non-standard English dialect.“Dem”, “Wha”, “dat” (reflects speaker’s background, challenges standard forms)
ContrastJuxtaposition to highlight differences.Contrasts figures like Lord Nelson with the untold stories of figures like Toussaint L’Ouverture.
DictionSpecific word choice (especially Creole).Shapes the poem’s tone and emphasizes the speaker’s voice.
EnjambmentContinuing a sentence beyond the end of a line/stanza.“Blind me to my own identity / Dem tell me bout 1066 and all dat” (creates urgency and frustration)
HyperboleExaggeration for emphasis.“Bandage up me eye with me own history” (suggests the violence of distorted education)
ImageryVivid language creating sensory experiences.“fire-woman struggle / hopeful stream / to freedom river” (evokes Nanny de Maroon’s courage)
IronyLanguage implying opposite of the literal meaning.“…ole King Cole was a merry ole soul” (exposes concern with the absence of Black heroes)
JuxtapositionPlacing elements side-by-side for contrast.Juxtaposing “cow who jump over de moon” with Nanny highlights erasure.
MetaphorImplied comparison between unlike things.“Bandage up me eye with me own history” (represents distortion of knowledge)
MotifRecurring image, symbol, or idea.Light/darkness motifs (“blind me,” “yellow sunrise,” “beacon”)
OnomatopoeiaWords that imitate sounds.“lick back” (limited in this poem, but creates defiance)
PersonificationGiving human qualities to non-human things.“hopeful stream”
RepetitionRepeating words/phrases for emphasis, rhythm.“Dem tell me” (underscores a forced history)
Rhetorical QuestionA question asked for effect, not expecting an answer.“…but what happen to de Caribs and de Arawaks too” (highlights genocide)
RhythmStrong rhythm from Creole dialect, reinforcing the speaker’s voice and passion.
SimileDirect comparison using “like” or “as”.While not present in every stanza, comparing historical distortion to a bandage is the poem’s core comparison.
SymbolismUsing objects/ideas to represent deeper meanings.Mary Seacole represents all erased Black heroes.

Themes: “Checking Out Me History” by John Agard

  • Theme 1: The Distortion of History as a Tool of Colonialism: In “Checking Out Me History,” Agard exposes how history can be weaponized by those in power. The speaker laments, “Dem tell me / Wha dem want to tell me / Bandage up me eye with me own history / Blind me to me own identity.” This highlights how the education system functions as a tool of colonial control, creating a bandage of ignorance over the truth of the speaker’s cultural heritage.
  • Theme 2: Reclaiming Suppressed History: The poem underscores the importance of uncovering suppressed histories of Black figures and their resistance. Lines like “Toussaint a slave / with vision / lick back / Napoleon / battalion” showcase figures of Black brilliance intentionally left out of mainstream narratives. Agard contrasts this erasure with the nursery rhyme about “de cow who jump over de moon,” emphasizing the absurdity and injustice of this historical whitewashing.
  • Theme 3: The Search for Identity: The speaker experiences a profound disconnect due to the distorting effects of their education. They declare, “But now I checking out me own history / I carving out me identity.” In this act of defiance, the poem highlights the quest to overcome imposed definitions and form a sense of self rooted in a true and complete understanding of the past.
  • Theme 4: Resistance through Language: Agard’s use of Caribbean Creole is a powerful act of resistance. It defies the expectation of standard English as the sole vehicle for valid thought. Lines like “Dem tell me bout 1066 and all dat” illustrate how the poem’s linguistic choices embody the fight for cultural autonomy. The Creole voice strengthens the poem’s critique and provides a vehicle for the speaker to reclaim their narrative on their own terms.

Literary Theories and “Checking Out Me History” by John Agard

Examines the effects of colonialism on cultures and societies, exploring themes of power, identity, and resistance.The poem directly challenges the legacy of colonial education, exposing how it erases Black figures and distorts history. The speaker’s quest for their true identity is a postcolonial act of resistance.
Focuses on class struggles, economic systems, and how those in power exploit and oppress others.The poem could be analyzed through this lens by looking at how historical representation links to power structures. Who benefits from erasing Black heroes?
Emphasizes the reader’s active role in creating meaning from a text, based on their own experiences and perspectives.A reader’s background greatly affects their response. Someone familiar with Caribbean history and Creole will have a different experience than someone unfamiliar with these elements.
Examines gender roles, power dynamics, and equality (or inequality) within texts.While not the poem’s primary focus, lines like “fire-woman struggle” about Nanny of the Maroons highlight marginalized female figures. Additionally, Mary Seacole offers room for a feminist interpretation.

Critical Questions about “Checking Out Me History” by John Agard

  • How does Agard use language to challenge dominant historical narratives? Agard primarily uses Caribbean Creole, defying standard English as the ‘correct’ mode of expression. This embodies the poem’s resistance against imposed narratives. Additionally, repetition (“Dem tell me”) and juxtaposition of Black heroes with trivial rhymes (Toussaint vs. “de cow who jump over de moon”) underscore the absurdity of Eurocentric histories.
  • How does the poem portray the impact of distorted history on individual identity? The speaker feels robbed: “Bandage up me eye with me own history / Blind me to me own identity.” This metaphor suggests the violence of an incomplete education. The quest to check out their own history highlights identity as something actively sought, not passively received, underscoring the harm of erasure.
  • In what ways does the poem function as a form of protest? The poem exposes a system designed to maintain power by obscuring the contributions of Black figures. This awareness is the first step towards resistance. The speaker’s defiant tone (“…but now I checking out me own history”) and the celebration of figures like Toussaint L’Ouverture serve as acts of protest themselves.
  • What is the significance of the figures Agard chooses to highlight? Figures like Nanny of the Maroons and Mary Seacole offer a counter-narrative. Nanny embodies resistance to slavery, while Seacole’s contributions during the Crimean War challenge the erasure of Black women. Their inclusion highlights that Black history IS history, regardless of its suppression in mainstream narratives.

Literary Works Similar to “Checking Out Me History” by John Agard

  • “Telephone Conversation” by Wole Soyinka: This poem employs pointed satire and direct language to address themes of racism and prejudice. Soyinka’s speaker confronts the absurdity of discrimination when a landlady inquires about the color of their skin over the phone.
  • “Half-Caste” by John Agard: Another poem by Agard, “Half-Caste” similarly challenges notions of identity and mixed heritage through its questioning of arbitrary racial categorization and emphasis on a multifaceted sense of self.
  • “Nothing’s Changed” by Tatamkhulu Afrika: This poem explores the persistence of racist attitudes and systems of power that perpetuate inequality, even after superficial legal changes. Afrika’s work highlights the enduring legacy of oppression, resonating with Agard’s examination of deeply ingrained power imbalances.
  • “A Far Cry from Africa” by Derek Walcott: This poem delves into the complexities of a Caribbean identity fractured by colonialism. Walcott, like Agard, expresses a desire to reclaim a severed cultural heritage while grappling with the psychological impact of colonial legacies.

Suggested Readings: “Checking Out Me History” by John Agard

Scholarly articles.

  • This article delves into Agard’s language use in representing marginalized figures, offering deeper insight into the poem.
  • This analyzes Agard’s linguistic choices as performative acts of resistance against imposed cultural norms.
  • Provides a structured breakdown of the poem, with emphasis on context, themes, and language analysis.
  • Offers Agard’s biography, a selection of poems, and additional links for further exploration of his work.

Related posts:

  • “The Darkling Thrush” by Thomas Hardy: Analysis
  • “The Lady of Shalott” by Lord Tennyson: Analysis
  • “Yet Do I Marvel” by Countee Cullen: Analysis
  • “Terminus” by Ralph Waldo Emerson: Analysis

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checking out me history thesis statement

Checking Out Me History (John Agard)

Checking Out Me History by John Agard is a powerful and impassioned poem that challenges traditional narratives of history and celebrates the voices of marginalised individuals and communities. Through a blend of historical and cultural references, Agard explores themes of identity, empowerment, and the importance of reclaiming one's own history. You can read the poem below and will find detailed analysis further down the page.

Checking Out Me History by John Agard

Dem tell me  Dem tell me Wha dem want to tell me 

Bandage up me eye with me own history  Blind me to me own identity 

Dem tell me bout 1066 and all dat  Dem tell me bout Dick Whittington and he cat  But Toussaint L’Ouverture  No dem never tell me bout dat 

Toussaint  A slave  With vision  Lick back  Napoleon  Battalion  And first Black  Republic born  Toussaint de thorn  To de French  Toussaint de beacon  Of de Haitian Revolution

Dem tell me bout de man who discover de balloon  And de cow who jump over de moon  Dem tell me bout de dish ran away with de spoon  But dem never tell me bout Nanny de maroon 

Nanny  See-far woman  Of mountain dream  Fire-woman struggle  Hopeful stream  To freedom river 

Dem tell me bout Lord Nelson and Waterloo  But dem never tell me bout Shaka de great Zulu  Dem tell me bout Columbus and 1492  But what happen to de Caribs and de Arawaks too 

Dem tell me bout Florence Nightingale and she lamp  And how Robin Hood used to camp  Dem tell me bout ole King Cole was a merry ole soul  But dem never tell me bout Mary Seacole 

From Jamaica  She travel far  To the Crimean War  She volunteer to go  And even when de British said no  She still brave the Russian snow  A healing star  Among the wounded  A yellow sunrise  To the dying 

Dem tell me  Dem tell me wha dem want to tell me  But now I checking out me own history  I carving out me identity

"Checking Out Me History" is included in the GCSE English Literature Poetry Anthology "Power and Conflict," which features poems reflecting on various aspects of power, including its manifestations in historical narratives. John Agard, a British-Guyanese poet, draws on his Caribbean heritage and experiences of colonialism to craft a poem that critiques Eurocentric versions of history and advocates for the recognition of diverse cultural perspectives.

Identity and Cultural Heritage: Central to the poem is the theme of identity and cultural heritage. Agard explores how individuals are shaped by their cultural histories and ancestral legacies, highlighting the importance of reclaiming and celebrating one's own history. The poem challenges the dominance of Eurocentric narratives and celebrates the richness and diversity of global cultures.

Empowerment and Resistance: "Checking Out Me History" also delves into themes of empowerment and resistance. Agard celebrates the voices of marginalised individuals and communities who have traditionally been excluded from mainstream historical accounts, highlighting their resilience and agency in the face of oppression. The poem reflects on the power of reclaiming one's own history as a form of resistance against colonialism and cultural hegemony.

Language and Voice: The poem explores the role of language and voice in shaping historical narratives. Agard employs a blend of Standard English and Caribbean Creole to create a distinctive linguistic style that reflects his multicultural heritage. Through the use of dialect and colloquial language, Agard amplifies the voices of marginalised individuals and challenges traditional notions of linguistic authority and legitimacy.

Imagery and Language

Agard employs vivid imagery and evocative language to bring historical figures and events to life. Descriptions of "Nanny de maroon" and "Toussaint de beacon" evoke the resilience and courage of historical figures who fought against colonial oppression. The use of repetition, such as "dem tell me" and "bandage up me eye with me own history," reinforces the poem's themes of empowerment and resistance, emphasising the importance of reclaiming one's own history.

Structure and Form

"Checking Out Me History" is structured as a series of stanzas of varying lengths, with irregular line lengths and rhythms. This free verse form mirrors the fluidity and diversity of cultural histories, allowing for a flexible exploration of different voices and perspectives. The use of enjambment between lines creates a sense of continuity and flow, reinforcing the poem's themes of interconnectedness and solidarity.

Tone and Perspective

The tone of the poem is defiant and celebratory, as the speaker asserts his right to reclaim his own history. Agard adopts a first-person perspective, allowing readers to empathise with the speaker's experiences of cultural erasure and marginalisation. The use of direct address, such as "dem tell me," invites readers to challenge their own assumptions about history and confront the perceived biases and omissions inherent in traditional narratives.

Characterisation

While "Checking Out Me History" primarily focuses on historical figures and events, Agard subtly hints at the broader social and political context that underlies the poem. Through descriptions of "Blinding" and "Bandage," Agard acknowledges the legacy of colonialism and cultural imperialism that has shaped historical narratives. The poem celebrates the resilience and agency of individuals who have resisted oppression and reclaimed their own histories.

Social Commentary

Through the lens of the speaker's experiences, Agard offers a broader commentary on the power dynamics inherent in historical narratives. The poem invites readers to critically examine the ways in which history is constructed and transmitted, and to recognise the importance of diverse voices and perspectives in shaping our understanding of the past. By celebrating the voices of traditionally marginalised individuals and communities, Agard challenges readers to confront the biases and omissions inherent in traditional historical accounts.

"Checking Out Me History" by John Agard is a powerful celebration of cultural heritage and resistance. Through its vivid imagery, evocative language, and defiant tone, the poem challenges traditional narratives of history and advocates for the recognition of diverse voices and perspectives. As part of the GCSE English Literature Poetry Anthology "Power and Conflict," "Checking Out Me History" serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of reclaiming and celebrating one's own history in the face of cultural oppression.

You can find analysis of all the Power and Conflict Poetry Anthology Poems here.  

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Checking Out Me History

Checking out me history lyrics.

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John Agard was born in British Guiana, now called Guyana, in the Caribbean, in 1949. He uses non-standard phonetic spelling to represent his accent and mixes Guyanese Creole with standard English.

‘Checking Out Me History’ was published in 2007. It is in the form of a dramatic monologue that employs Creole to represent the voice of a black man who is angered and frustrated by a Eurocentric history syllabus.

This poem has generated, and will continue to generate, many excellent, informative comments, too many to incorporate into the annotations. All are worth reading.

Themes The speaker refers to figures and events from both white and black history. In British schools white history and white children’s stories dominate the curriculum; the speaker in the poem feels mocked by this unfair and uneven emphasis. White history is obviously irrelevant to the speaker’s cultural identity. Black history is quoted to emphasise its separateness and to stress its importance. The essence of the poem is the importance of identity and knowing one’s cultural history, despite a system that denies appropriate education.

Structure The lack of punctuation, the stanzas in free verse, the irregular rhyme scheme represent the narrator’s rejection of the status quo and the formality of structured Western verse. Instead he favours the freer and spontaneous Caribbean lifestyle, expressed in the less structured verse.

Language The poet instead uses a mixture of English and the rhythmic musicality of Guyanese Creole; this is the language that is meaningful to the poet.

Find answers to frequently asked questions about the song and explore its deeper meaning

checking out me history thesis statement

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  • 22. Storm on the Island
  • 23. Bayonet Charge
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  • 25. Poppies
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  • 28. Émigrée
  • 29. Checking Out Me History
  • 30. Kamikaze

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checking out me history thesis statement

Checking Out Me History

Dem tell me Dem tell me Wha dem want to tell me Bandage up me eye with me own history Blind me to my own identity Dem tell me bout 1066 and all dat dem tell me bout Dick Whittington and he cat But Touissant L’Ouverture no dem never tell me bout dat Toussaint a slave with vision lick back Napoleon battalion and first Black Republic born Toussaint de thorn to de French Toussaint de beacon of de Haitian Revolution Dem tell me bout de man who discover de balloon and de cow who jump over de moon Dem tell me bout de dish run away with de spoon but dem never tell me bout Nanny de maroon Nanny see-far woman of mountain dream fire-woman struggle hopeful stream to freedom river Dem tell me bout Lord Nelson and Waterloo but dem never tell me bout Shaka de great Zulu Dem tell me bout Columbus and 1492 but what happen to de Caribs and de Arawaks too Dem tell me bout Florence Nightingale and she lamp and how Robin Hood used to camp Dem tell me bout ole King Cole was a merry ole soul but dem never tell me bout Mary Seacole From Jamaica she travel far to the Crimean War she volunteer to go and even when de British said no she still brave the Russian snow a healing star among the wounded a yellow sunrise to the dying Dem tell me Dem tell me wha dem want to tell me But now I checking out me own history I carving out me identity

Summary of Checking Out Me History

Analysis of literary devices used in checking out me history.

“Dem tell me bout Florence Nightingale and she lamp and how Robin Hood used to camp Dem tell me bout ole King Cole was a merry ole soul but dem never tell me bout Mary Seacole”

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in Checking Out Me History

“Dem tell me Dem tell me Wha dem want to tell me”

Quotes to be Used

“Dem tell me Dem tell me wha dem want to tell me But now I checking out me own history I carving out me identity”

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Comparing ‘Checking Out Me History’ and ‘The Émigrée’

I can compare how Agard and Rumens present conflict and identity in their poems.

Lesson details

Key learning points.

  • Both ‘The Émigrée’ and ‘Checking Out Me History’ explore big ideas of oppression, power and identity.
  • Both poems criticise oppressive systems due to the detrimental effect they can have on identity.
  • Both poets reconnect with their heritage: Rumens personifying her country and Agard telling stories in his dialect.
  • Both poems use the motif of light to show the power of personal identity.
  • Both poets ultimately reveal how one can reclaim their sense of identity.

Common misconception

Pupils may notice the theme of oppression in ‘The Émigrée’ due to the mention of war, but not notice this in 'Checking Out Me History'.

'Checking Out Me History' explores how Agard presents colonisation and its effects as oppressive.

Oppression - cruel or unfair treatment

Triumph - to defeat someone or something

Heritage - a person’s racial, religious or cultural background

Reclaim - to take back something that was yours

AQA Power and Conflict anthology needed.

Content guidance

  • Contains depictions of discriminatory behaviour.
  • Contains conflict or violence.

Supervision

Adult supervision suggested.

This content is © Oak National Academy Limited ( 2024 ), licensed on Open Government Licence version 3.0 except where otherwise stated. See Oak's terms & conditions (Collection 2).

Starter quiz

6 questions.

checking out me history thesis statement

London and Checking Out Me History – Comparative Essay + Feedback

Below, you’ll find a comparative essay of the poems from the AQA Power and Conflict Poetry collection, specifically the poems “London” + “Checking Out Me History”. This is a borderline L7/L8 A/A* Comparative Essay Example with teacher feedback at the end.

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AQA English Language Paper 2 

Compare the way poets present negative emotions in London by William Blake and another poem of your choice.

London by William Blake, is a poem criticising how the poor people are left to suffer. Whereas Checking out me History by John Agard, voices the lack of consideration given to aspects of history which are important to understanding British identity within minority communities. Both poems illustrate the negative emotion of anger and how the disenfranchised within society have very little power.

Blake uses a regular rhyme scheme of ABAB to create his poem. This simple rhyming is unbroken throughout the poem and echoes the relentless misery suffered in the city. Likewise, Agard also uses simple rhymes when describing British school topics and this is to make them seem familiar. However, when reciting elements of Caribbean history, Agard uses a mixture of regular and irregular rhymes, and short and long lines suggesting he is breaking the confining structure of the Education system. Both poets use the natural, pleasant feeling of rhyme to disturb the reader into recognising what ‘appears’ to be normal, is unfair on others, therefore highlighting the poem’s negative feelings.

Agard uses colloquial language to celebrate inclusion of identities. He repeats the phrase ‘Dem tell me…’ to provide the speaker with a cultural identity of someone who isn’t represented by the school Curriculum. The phonetic spelling of ‘Them’ leaves the reader without doubt that the speaker is of Caribbean descent. The imperative use of the word creates the negative feelings associated with school and how rules are enforced. On the other hand, Blake uses formal language in his poem to reach out to those in power to enact change “Every black’ning church appals” the verb ‘to appal’ is one likely used by the people in power to describe the behaviour of poor people, yet Blake uses it to criticise institutionalized religion. The adjective ‘black’ning’ illustrates a tarnished and corrupt church failing in their duty to support those in need. Blake’s formal language unites the reader in their plight whereas; Agard’s binary of ‘Dem’ aligns the reader with the speaker’s negative feelings by showing their perspective and not focusing on their hopeless condition. Both poems use language to present negative feelings, but Blake present a poor to be pitied and not the identity to be celebrated in the more empowered ‘Checking Out Me History.’

London by William Blake – Poem Analysis

Checking Out Me History – Summary and Analysis

Agard uses imagery of light to show a contrast to the negativity. Toussaint L’Ouverture, a hero from the Haitian revolution is described as a ‘beacon’ and Mary Seacole, a ‘healing star’ and ‘yellow sunrise’. These warm images suggest hope within the desperate situation of war and freedom fighting and emphasises the binary of ‘light and dark’ emphasising the ‘them and us’. In contrast, Blake focuses on bleak imagery to illustrate how everything is affected by the neglectful treatment of the poor and nothing pure or innocent remains. The metaphor ‘mind-forged manacles’ presents a hopeless situation comparing the poor’s entrapment to a life of poverty with the way others are trapped by their thoughts and attitudes. These manacles have not been forged in a literal blacksmith’s, but in the minds of people. Blake’s imagery unsettles the reader into improving the way they view the poor. On the other hand, Agard’s hopeful, light use of imagery illustrates that people can overthrow oppression.

Checking Out Me History is a contemporary poem published in 2007 whereas, William Blake’s London was written in 1794. Blake wrote two volumes of poetry which explored the state of the human soul. London comes from the ‘Songs of Experience’ collection which explored how society had been corrupted. Blake held radical political views for the time ‘Runs in blood down palace walls’ suggests a reference to the French Revolution where the people overturned the Monarchy. Blake’s negative feelings and anger reflect radical views held at the time. In contrast, John Agard is writing at a time when people have an amount of freedom, but are still restricted by people in power and denied access to fair representation. Agard references historical figures such as Mary Seacole ‘she travel far/ to the Crimean War’ to emphasise how far we’ve come on the road to equality, but shows anger that we are still not there by illustrating our lack of focus on these figures in Education by naming her white British counterpart ‘Florence Nightingale and she lamp’ who is regularly drawn to in reference to the Crimean War. Blake’s poem is secured within a specific historical period whereas Agard’s draws on history to suggest change in the present.

To conclude, both poets illustrate their anger within the poems and direct it at people in authority; those who hold power. Blake uses anger to shame his readers into changing their attitudes toward the poor and accepting responsibility. Agard uses negative feelings of power to align the reader with his perspective. Both want society to change and suggest their anger will not be dissipated until change happens for one and all.

EXAMINER FEEDBACK:

  • Clear intro with a good detailed point of comparison that shows awareness of context. 
  • The approach of comparing techniques is perhaps not entirely helpful, the structure of the essay would be better if the student started with comparing / contrasting ideas to do with the question, then using the techniques to back up their analysis. 
  • There’s a clear shape to the essay including a thesis, separate middle paragraphs and a conclusion. 
  • The AO2 analysis is very thorough and precise, often considering words and the effects of techniques in detail .

AO1 L4-L5 9/12 

  • Clear, explained response to the task and whole text. 
  • Effective use of references to support the explanation.
  • Needs a little restructuring to achieve a higher level – paragraphs should explore topics rather than techniques. 

AO2 L5-L6 11/12 

  • Examination of writer’s methods with subject terminology used effectively to support consideration of methods .
  • Examination of effects of writer’s methods to create meanings.
  • Precise application of themes and context .
  • Thoughtful consideration of ideas/perspectives/contextual factors shown by examination of detailed links between context/text/task.
  • Could go into further precise detail to achieve even higher – sometimes the context points are underdeveloped and quickly skipped over, although they are precise and accurate .

25/30 83% Borderline L7-L8 grade

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"London" + "Checking Out Me History" L7-L8 Grade Comparative Essay + Feedback

"London" + "Checking Out Me History" L7-L8 Grade Comparative Essay + Feedback

Subject: English

Age range: 11-14

Resource type: Unit of work

Scrbbly - A* Grade Literature + Language Resources

Last updated

3 April 2023

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checking out me history thesis statement

In this resource, you’ll find a comparative essay for the poems from the AQA Power and Conflict Poetry collection: “London” + “Checking Out Me History”.

This is a borderline L7/L8 A/A* Comparative Essay example that was completed by a student, with bonus teacher feedback at the end.

For further support, please take a look at the full Power and Conflict Poetry Bundle on my shop!

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FactCheck.org

FactChecking the Biden-Trump Debate

In the first debate clash of the 2024 campaign, the two candidates unleashed a flurry of false and misleading statements.

By Robert Farley , Eugene Kiely , D'Angelo Gore , Jessica McDonald , Lori Robertson , Catalina Jaramillo , Saranac Hale Spencer and Alan Jaffe

Posted on June 28, 2024

The much-anticipated first debate of 2024 between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump featured a relentless barrage of false and misleading statements from the two candidates on immigration, the economy, abortion, taxes and more.

  • Both candidates erred on Social Security, with Biden incorrectly saying that Trump “wants to get rid” of the program, and Trump falsely alleging that Biden will “wipe out” Social Security due to the influx of people at the border.
  • Trump misleadingly claimed that he was “the one that got the insulin down for the seniors,” not Biden. Costs were lowered for some under a limited project by the Trump administration. Biden signed a law capping costs for all seniors with Medicare drug coverage.
  • Trump warned that Biden “wants to raise your taxes by four times,” but Biden has not proposed anything like that. Trump was also mostly wrong when he said Biden “wants the Trump tax cuts to expire.” Biden said he would extend them for anyone making under $400,000 a year.
  • Biden repeated his misleading claim that billionaires pay an average federal tax rate of 8%. That White House calculation factors in earnings on unsold stock as income.
  • Trump repeated his false claim that “everybody,” including all legal scholars, wanted to end Roe v. Wade’s constitutional right to abortion.
  • Trump falsely claimed that “the only jobs” Biden “created are for illegal immigrants and bounced back jobs that bounced back from the COVID.” Total nonfarm employment is higher than it was before the pandemic, as is the employment level of native-born workers.
  • Biden claimed that Trump oversaw the “largest deficit of any president,” while Trump countered that “we now have the largest deficit” under Biden. The largest budget deficit was under Trump in fiscal year 2020, but that was largely because of emergency spending due to COVID-19.
  • Biden misleadingly said that “Black unemployment is the lowest level it has been in a long, long time.” The rate reached a record low in April 2023, and it was low under Trump, too, until the pandemic.
  • Biden said Trump called U.S. veterans killed in World War I “suckers and losers,” which Trump called a “made up quote.” The Atlantic reported that, based on anonymous sources. A former Trump chief of staff later seemed to confirm Trump said it.
  • Trump claimed that Biden “caused the inflation,” but economists say rising inflation was mostly due to disruptions to the economy caused by the pandemic.
  • Trump grossly inflated the number of immigrants who have entered the country during the Biden administration — putting the number at 18 million to 20 million — and he said, without evidence, that many of them are from prisons and mental institutions.
  • Trump claimed that “we had the safest border in history” in the “final months” of his presidency. But apprehensions of those trying to cross illegally in the last three full months of his presidency were about 50% higher than in the three months before he took office.
  • Biden criticized Trump for presiding over a loss of jobs when he was president, but that loss occurred because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Trump falsely claimed that “some states” run by Democrats allow abortions “after birth.” If it happened, it would be homicide, and that’s illegal.
  • Trump made the unsupported claim that the U.S. border with Mexico is “the most dangerous place in the world,” and suggested that it has opened the country to a violent crime wave. The data show a reduction in violent crime in the U.S.
  • Trump overstated how much food prices have risen due to inflation. Prices are up by about 20%, not double or quadruple. 
  • Trump boasted his administration “had the best environmental numbers ever.” Trump reversed nearly 100 environmental rules limiting pollution. Although greenhouse gas emissions did decline from 2019 to 2020, the EPA said that was due to the impacts of the pandemic on travel and the economy.   
  • Biden said he joined the Paris Agreement because “if we reach the 1.5 degrees Celsius, and then … there’s no way back.” Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees would reduce the damages and losses of global warming, but scientists agree that climate action is still possible after passing the threshold.
  • Trump said immigrants crossing the border illegally were living in “luxury hotels.” New York City has provided hotel and motel rooms to migrant families, but there is no evidence that they are being placed in “luxury” hotels. 
  • Trump falsely claimed that there was “no terrorism, at all” in the U.S. during his administration. There were several terrorist acts carried out by foreign-born individuals when he was president.
  • While talking about international trade, Trump falsely claimed that the U.S. currently has “the largest deficit with China.” In 2023, the trade deficit in goods and services with China was the lowest it has been since 2009.
  • Trump wrongly claimed that prior to the pandemic, he had created “the greatest economy in the history of our country.” That’s far from true using economists’ preferred measure — growth in gross domestic product.
  • As he has many times before, Trump wrongly claimed, “I gave you the largest tax cut in history.” That’s not true either as a percentage of gross domestic product or in inflation-adjusted dollars.
  • Trump contrasted his administration with Biden’s by misleadingly noting that when he left office, the U.S. was “energy independent.” The U.S. continues to export more energy than it imports.

The debate was hosted by CNN in Atlanta on June 27.

Social Security

Biden claimed that Trump “wants to get rid” of Social Security, even though the former president has consistently said he will not cut the program and has advised Republicans against doing so.

checking out me history thesis statement

Earlier this year, Biden and his campaign based the claim on Trump saying in a  March 11 CNBC interview  that “there is a lot you can do in terms of entitlements in terms of cutting and in terms of also the theft and the bad management of entitlements.” As  we’ve said , in context, instead of reducing benefits, Trump was talking about cutting waste and fraud in those programs — although there’s not enough of that to make the program solvent over the long term.

“I will never do anything that will jeopardize or hurt Social Security or Medicare,” Trump later said in a  March 13 Breitbart interview . “We’ll have to do it elsewhere. But we’re not going to do anything to hurt them.”

During the GOP presidential primary, Trump also  criticized  some of his Republican opponents for proposing to raise the retirement age for Social Security, which budget experts  have said  would reduce scheduled benefits for those affected.

Some critics of Trump have  argued  that he cannot be expected to keep his promise because of his past budget proposals. But,  as we’ve written , Trump did not propose cuts to Social Security retirement benefits.

Meanwhile, Trump claimed during the debate that Biden “is going to single handedly destroy Social Security” because of illegal immigration. “These millions and millions of people coming in, they’re trying to put them on Social Security. He will wipe out Social Security,” Trump said of Biden.

As  we  and  others  have explained before, immigrants who are not authorized to be in the U.S. aren’t eligible for Social Security. In fact, because many such individuals pay into Social Security via payroll taxes but cannot receive benefits, illegal immigrants bolster rather than drain the finances of the program.

In referring to what seniors pay for insulin, Trump misleadingly claimed, “I heard him say before ‘insulin.’ I’m the one that got the insulin down for the seniors. I took care of the seniors.” Insulin costs went down for some beneficiaries under a limited project under Trump; Biden signed a more expansive law affecting all seniors with Medicare drug coverage.

Under Trump, out-of-pocket costs were lowered to $35 for some Medicare Part D beneficiaries under a two-year pilot project in which some insurers could voluntarily reduce the cost for some insulin products. KFF, a nonpartisan health policy research organization,  explained  earlier this month that under this model, in effect from 2021 to 2023, “participating Medicare Part D prescription drug plans covered at least one of each dosage form and type of insulin product at no more than $35 per month,” and “less than half of all Part D plans chose to participate in each year.”

But in 2022, Biden  signed a law  that required all Medicare prescription drug plans to cap all insulin products at $35. The law also capped the out-of-pocket price for insulin that’s covered under Medicare Part B, which covers drugs administered in a health care provider’s office. The caps went into effect last year.

STAT, a news site that covers health care issues,  reported  that the idea for a $35 cap for seniors initially came from Eli Lilly, the pharmaceutical company, which proposed it in 2019.

Trump on Biden Tax Plan

“He’s the only one I know he wants to raise your taxes by four times,” Trump said of Biden. “He wants to raise everybody’s taxes by four times. He wants the Trump tax cuts to expire. So everybody … [is] going to pay four to five times –  nobody ever heard of this before.”

Trump regularly warns of massive tax hikes for “everybody,” should Biden be reelected. That doesn’t jibe with anything Biden has proposed.

In his more than three years as president, Biden’s  major tax changes  have included setting a  minimum corporate tax rate  of 15% and lowering taxes for some families by  expanding the child tax credit  and, for a time, making it fully refundable, meaning families could still receive a refund even if they no longer owe additional taxes.

As  we wrote  in 2020, when Trump made a similar claim, Biden proposed during that campaign to raise an additional $4 trillion in taxes over the next decade, although the increases would have fallen mainly on very high-income earners and corporations. The plan would not have doubled or tripled people’s taxes at any income level (on average), according to analyses of Biden’s plan by the  Penn Wharton Budget Model ,  the Tax Policy Center  and  the Tax Foundation .

In March 2023, the TPC’s Howard Gleckman  wrote  that Biden proposed a 2024 budget that would, on average, increase after-tax incomes for low-income households and “leave them effectively unchanged for middle-income households.” The Tax Policy Center noted, “The top 1 percent, with at least roughly $1 million in income, would pay an average of $300,000 more than under current law, dropping their after-tax incomes by 14 percent.”

This March, Biden released his  fiscal year 2025 budget , which contains many of the same proposals and adds a few new wrinkles. But it still  does not contain  any “colossal tax hikes” on typical American families, as Trump has said.

Biden’s latest plan proposes — as he has in the past — to increase the corporate income tax rate from 21% to 28%, and to  restore  the top individual tax rate of 39.6% from the current rate of 37%. It would also increase the corporate minimum tax rate from 15% to 21% for companies that report average profits in excess of $1 billion over a three-year period. And the plan would impose a 25% minimum tax on very wealthy individuals. The plan also proposes to extend the expanded child tax credit enacted in the American Rescue Plan through 2025, and to make the child tax credit fully refundable on a permanent basis.

Trump is also mostly wrong that Biden “wants the Trump tax cuts to expire.”

As he has said since the 2020 campaign, Biden’s FY 2025 budget vows not to increase taxes on people earning less than $400,000.

In order to keep that pledge, Biden would have to extend most of the individual income tax provisions enacted in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that are set to expire at the end of 2025. And that’s what Biden says he would do — but  only for  individual filers earning less than $400,000 and married couples making less than $450,000. (In order to pass the TCJA with a simple Senate majority, Republicans wrote the law to have most of the individual income tax changes  expire after 2025 .)

The Biden budget plan “would raise marginal income tax rates faced by higher earners and corporations while expanding tax credits for lower-income households,” according to a Tax Foundation  analysis  of the tax provisions in Biden’s budget. “The budget would redistribute income from high earners to low earners. The bottom 60 percent of earners would see increases in after-tax income in 2025, while the top 40 percent of earners would see decreases.”

Biden on Taxes Paid by Billionaires

In arguing that wealthy households should pay a minimum tax, Biden repeated his misleading claim that billionaires pay an average federal tax rate of 8%.

“We have a thousand … billionaires in America, and what’s happening?”  Biden said . “They’re in a situation where they in fact pay 8.2% in taxes.”

That’s not the average rate in the current tax system; it’s a figure  calculated  by the White House and factors in earnings on unsold stock as income. When only considering income, the top-earning taxpayers, on average, pay higher tax rates than those in lower income groups, as  we’ve written  before.

The top 0.1% of earners pay an average rate of 25.1% in federal income and payroll taxes,  according to  an analysis by the Tax Policy Center in October 2022 for the 2023 tax year.

The point that Biden tried to make is that earnings on assets, such as stock, currently are not taxed until that asset is sold, which is when the earnings become subject to capital gains taxes. Until stocks and assets are sold, the earnings are referred to as “unrealized” gains. Unrealized gains, the White House  has argued , could go untaxed forever if wealthy people hold on to them and transfer them on to heirs when they die.

Roe v. Wade

As he has  before , Trump wildly exaggerated the popularity of ending Roe v. Wade — even going so far as to claim that it was “something that everybody wanted.”

“51 years ago, you had Roe v. Wade and everybody wanted to get it back to the states,”  he said , referring to the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that established a constitutional right to abortion, which was  overturned  in 2022.

Trump:  Everybody, without exception: Democrats, Republicans, liberals, conservatives. Everybody wanted it back — religious leaders. And what I did is I put three great Supreme Court justices on the court and they happened to vote in favor of killing Roe v. Wade, and moving it back to the states. This is something that everybody wanted. Now 10 years ago or so they started talking about how many weeks and how many this and getting into other things. But every legal scholar throughout the world — the most respected — wanted it brought back to the states. I did that.

In fact, a majority of Americans have disagreed with ending Roe v. Wade, including plenty of legal scholars, as we’ve explained  before . While some scholars criticized aspects of the legal reasoning in Roe, it did not necessarily mean they wanted the ruling overturned. Legal experts told us that Trump’s claim was “utter nonsense” and “patently absurd.”

Trump Wrong on Jobs

After Biden talked about job creation during his administration, Trump falsely claimed that “the only jobs [Biden] created are for illegal immigrants and bounced back jobs that bounced back from the COVID.”

In fact, as of May,  total nonfarm employment  in the U.S. had gone up about 6.2 million from the pre-pandemic peak in February 2020, according to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The increase is about 15.6 million if you count from when Biden took office in January 2021 until now — but that would include some jobs that were temporarily lost during the pandemic and then came back during the economic recovery.

Furthermore, there is no evidence that only “illegal immigrants” have seen employment gains.

Since Biden became president in January 2021, employment of U.S.-born workers has increased more than employment of foreign-born workers, a category that includes anyone who wasn’t a U.S. citizen at birth, as we’ve written before . BLS says the  foreign-born  population includes “legally-admitted immigrants, refugees, temporary residents such as students and temporary workers, and undocumented immigrants.” There is no employment breakdown for just people in the U.S. illegally.

In looking at employment since the pre-pandemic peak, the employment level of  foreign-born workers  was up by about 3.2 million, from roughly 27.7 million in February 2020 to nearly 30.9 million in May. Employment for the  U.S.-born population  increased by about 125,000 — from nearly 130.3 million in February 2020 to 130.4 million, as of May.

Conflicting Budget Deficit Claims

Biden and Trump accused each other of presiding over the largest budget deficit in the U.S.

After talking about Trump’s plans for additional tax cuts, Biden said Trump already had the “largest deficit of any president in American history.” When he got a chance to respond, Trump said, “We now have the largest deficit in the history of our country under this guy,” referring to Biden.

Biden is correct: The  largest budget deficit  on record was about $3.1 trillion in fiscal year 2020 under Trump. However, that was  primarily  because of trillions of dollars in emergency funding that both congressional Republicans and Democrats approved to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the pandemic, the largest budget deficit under Trump was about $1 trillion in fiscal 2019.

Meanwhile, the most recent budget deficit under Biden was about $1.7 trillion in fiscal 2023. As of June, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office  projected  that the deficit for fiscal 2024, which ends on Sept. 30, would be about $2 trillion.

Black Unemployment

Biden boasted that on his watch, “Black unemployment is the lowest level it has been in a long, long time.”

It’s true that the unemployment rate for Black or African American people reached a record low of 4.8% in April 2023, but it is currently 6.1%,  according to  the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which has data going back to 1972.

Also, the unemployment rate was low under Trump, too, until the pandemic.

Under Trump, the  unemployment rate for Black Americans  went down to 5.3% in August 2019 – the lowest on record at that time. It shot up to 16.9% in April 2020, when the economic effects of the pandemic took hold. When Trump left office in January 2021, amid the pandemic, the rate was 9.3%.

The rate has been 6% or less in only 29 months since 1972, and it happened only under two presidents: 21 times under Biden and eight times under Trump.

‘Suckers and Losers’

Biden  said  Trump called U.S. veterans killed in World War I “suckers and losers,” which Trump called a “made up quote … that was in a third-rate magazine.”

It was first reported by a magazine — the Atlantic — but Trump’s former chief of staff,  John F. Kelly , a retired four-star Marine general, later seemed to confirm it.

Biden was referring to a trip Trump made to France in November 2018, where he reportedly declined to visit the  Aisne-Marne American Cemetery  near the location of the Battle of Belleau Wood. “He was standing with his four-star general and he told him, ‘I don’t want to go in there because they’re a bunch of losers and suckers.’”

The Atlantic  wrote  about this alleged incident in 2020, citing unnamed sources. The magazine wrote that Trump made his remark about “losers” when he declined to visit the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, and his remark about “suckers” during that same trip.

The Atlantic, Sept. 3, 2020:  In a conversation with senior staff members on the morning of the scheduled visit, Trump said, “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” In a separate conversation on the same trip, Trump referred to the more than 1,800 marines who lost their lives at Belleau Wood as “suckers” for getting killed.

In October 2023, Kelly – who was on that trip and visited the Aisne-Marne Cemetery — gave a  statement to CNN  that seemed to confirm those remarks. CNN published Kelly’s statement.

CNN, Oct. 3, 2023:  “What can I add that has not already been said?” Kelly said, when asked if he wanted to weigh in on his former boss in light of recent comments made by other former Trump officials. “A person that thinks those who defend their country in uniform, or are shot down or seriously wounded in combat, or spend years being tortured as POWs are all ‘suckers’ because ‘there is nothing in it for them.’ A person that did not want to be seen in the presence of military amputees because ‘it doesn’t look good for me.’ A person who demonstrated open contempt for a Gold Star family – for all Gold Star families – on TV during the 2016 campaign, and rants that our most precious heroes who gave their lives in America’s defense are ‘losers’ and wouldn’t visit their graves in France.”

Trump said, “We had 19 people who said I didn’t say it.” One of those who said that he didn’t hear Trump make those remarks is John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser who was also on the trip and said he was there when the decision was made not to visit the cemetery.

“I didn’t hear that,” Bolton  told the New York Times  in 2020 after the magazine story first appeared. “I’m not saying he didn’t say them later in the day or another time, but I was there for that discussion.”

Biden Misleads on Jobs

Biden ignored the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic when he criticized Trump for employment going down over Trump’s time in office.

“He’s the only president other than Herbert Hoover that lost more jobs than he had when he began,” Biden said.

Job growth during Trump’s term was positive until the economy lost 20.5 million jobs in April 2020, as efforts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus led to business closures and layoffs. By the time Trump left office in January 2021, employment had partly rebounded, but was still 9.4 million jobs below the February 2020 peak,  according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics .

Trump repeatedly claimed that Biden “caused the inflation” and that “I gave him a country with no essentially no inflation. It was perfect. It was so good.”

It’s true that inflation was relatively modest when Trump was president. The  Consumer Price Index rose 7.6%  under Trump’s four years — continuing a long period of low inflation. And inflation has been high over the entirety of Biden’s time in office. The  Consumer Price Index  for all items rose 19.3% between January 2021 and May.

For a time, it was the worst inflation in decades. The 12 months ending in June 2022 saw a 9% increase in the CPI (before seasonal adjustment), which the  Bureau of Labor Statistics said  was the biggest such increase since the 12 months ending in November 1981.

Inflation has moderated more recently. The CPI  rose  3.3% in the 12 months ending in May, the most recent figure available.

Although Trump claims that Biden is entirely responsible for massive inflation, economists  we have spoken to  say Biden’s policies are only partly to blame. The economists placed the lion’s share of the blame for inflation on disruptions to the economy caused by the pandemic, including supply shortages, labor issues and increased consumer spending on goods. Inflation was then worsened by Russia’s attack on Ukraine, which drove up oil and gas prices, experts told us.

Indeed, inflation has been a  worldwide problem  post-pandemic.

However, many economists say Biden’s policies — particularly aggressive stimulus spending early in his presidency to offset some of the economic damage caused by the pandemic — played a modest role.

Jason Furman , a former economic adviser to President Barack Obama and now a Harvard University professor, told us in June 2022 that he estimated about 1 to 4 percentage points worth of the inflation was due to Biden’s stimulus spending in the  American Rescue Plan  — a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief measure that included $1,400 checks to most Americans; expanded unemployment benefits; and money for schools, small businesses and states.  Mark Zandi , chief economist of Moody’s — whose work is often cited by the White House — said the impact of the stimulus measure now “has largely faded.”

Economists note that the American Rescue Plan came after two other pandemic stimulus laws enacted under Trump that were  worth  a  total  of $3.1 trillion. That spending, too, could have contributed to inflation.

Immigrants Entering U.S. Under Biden

Trump grossly inflated the number of immigrants who have entered the country during the Biden administration — putting the number at 18 million to 20 million. The number, by our calculation, is about a third of that. Trump also claimed, without evidence, that many of those immigrants are from prisons and mental institutions.

“It could be 18, it could be 19, and even 20 million people,” Trump said of the immigrants who have entered the U.S. during the Biden administration. Later in the debate, Trump asked Biden why there had been no accountability “for allowing 18 million people many from prisons, many from mental institutions” into the country.

That’s a greatly exaggerated number. We took a deep dive into the immigration numbers  in February , and again in  mid-June , and we came up with an estimate of at most a third of Trump’s number.

Here’s the breakdown:

Department of Homeland Security data show nearly 8 million encounters at the U.S.-Mexico border between February 2021, the month after Biden took office, and May, the last month of available  statistics . That’s a figure that includes both the 6.9 million apprehensions of migrants caught between legal ports of entry – the number typically used for illegal immigration – and nearly 1.1 million encounters of migrants who arrived at ports of entry without authorization to enter the U.S.

DHS also has comprehensive data, through February, of the initial processing of these encounters. That information shows 2.9 million were removed by Customs and Border Protection and 3.2 million were released with notices to appear in immigration court or report to Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the future, or other classifications, such as parole. (Encounters do not represent the total number of people, because some people attempt multiple crossings. For example, the recidivism rate was 27% in fiscal year 2021,  according to the most recent figures  from CBP.) 

As  we’ve explained before , there are also estimates for “gotaways,” or migrants who crossed the border illegally and evaded the authorities. Based on an average annual apprehension rate of 78%, which DHS provided to us, that would mean there were an estimated 1.8 million gotaways from February 2021 to February 2024. The gotaways plus those released with court notices or other designations would total about 5 million.

There were also 407,500 transfers of unaccompanied children to the Department of Health and Human Services and 883,000 transfers to ICE. The ICE transfers include those who are then booked into ICE custody, enrolled in “ alternatives to detention ” (which include technological monitoring) or released by ICE. We don’t know how many of those were released into the country with a court notice. But even if we include those figures, it still doesn’t get us to anywhere near 18 to 20 million.

And we should note that these figures do not reflect whether a migrant may ultimately be allowed to stay or will be deported, particularly since there is a yearslong backlog of immigration court cases.

Also, as we have  written   repeatedly , Trump has provided no credible support for his incendiary claim that countries are emptying their prisons and mental institutions and sending those people to the U.S. Experts tell us they have seen no evidence to substantiate it.

Earlier this month, we looked into  Trump’s claim as it relates to Venezuela, because Trump has repeatedly cited a drop in crime there to support his claim about countries emptying their prisons and sending inmates to the U.S. Reported crime is trending down in Venezuela, but crime experts in the country say there are numerous reasons for that — including an enormous out-migration of citizens and a consolidation of gang activity — and they have nothing to do with sending criminals to the U.S.

“We have no evidence that the Venezuelan government is emptying the prisons or mental hospitals to send them out of the country, whether to the USA or any other country,” Roberto Briceño-León, founder and director of the independent Venezuelan Observatory of Violence, told us.

Border Under Trump

Trump claimed that “we had the safest border in history” in the “final months” of his presidency, according to Border Patrol. But according to  data  provided by Customs and Border Protection, apprehensions of those trying to cross illegally into the U.S. in the last three full months of Trump’s presidency were about 50% higher than in the  three months  before he took office.

In fact, as we wrote in our piece, “ Trump’s Final Numbers ,” illegal border crossings, as measured by  apprehensions at the southwest border , were 14.7% higher in Trump’s final year in office compared with the last full year before he was sworn in.

But these statistics tell only part of the story. The number of apprehensions fluctuated wildly during Trump’s presidency, from a  monthly  low of 11,127 in April 2017 to a high of 132,856 in May 2019.

Back in April,  we wrote  about a misleading chart that Trump showed to the crowd during a speech in Green Bay, Wisconsin. “See the arrow on the bottom? That was my last week in office,” Trump said. “That was the lowest number in history.” But Trump was wrong on both points.

The arrow was pointing to apprehensions in April 2020, when apprehensions plummeted during the height of the pandemic.

“The pandemic was responsible for a near-complete halt to all forms of global mobility in 2020, due to a combination of border restrictions imposed by countries around the world,”  Michelle Mittelstadt , director of communications for the Migration Policy Institute, told us.

After apprehensions reached a pandemic low in April 2020, they rose every month after that. In his last months in office, apprehensions had more than quadrupled from that pandemic low and were higher than the month he took office.

Trump falsely claimed that “some states” run by Democrats allow abortions “after birth.” As  we have written , that’s simply false. If it happened, it would be  homicide , and that’s  illegal .

“No such procedure exists,” the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists  says  on its website.

The former president  has wrongly said  that abortions after birth were permitted under Roe v. Wade — the Supreme Court ruling that established a constitutional right to abortion until it was  reversed  in 2022. It was not.

Under Roe, states could outlaw abortion after fetal viability, but with exceptions for risks to the life or health of the mother. Many Republicans  have objected  to the health stipulation, saying it would allow abortion for any reason. Democrats say exceptions are needed to protect the mother from medical risks. We should note, late-term abortions  are rare . According to the  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , less than 1% of abortions in the U.S. in 2020 were performed after 21 weeks gestational time.

In June 2022, after Trump had appointed three conservative justices to the Supreme Court, the court  overturned  Roe in a 5-4 ruling. Biden  supports  restoring Roe as “the law of the land,” as he said in his State of the Union address in March.

Trump Calls Border ‘The Most Dangerous Place’

In his focus on the U.S. border with Mexico, Trump  made  the unsupported claim that it is “the most dangerous place in the world.”

It’s true that unauthorized border crossings  can be dangerous  — 895 people died while doing so in fiscal year 2022, which is the most recent year for which the Customs and Border Protection has  data . Most of those deaths were heat related.

And the International Organization for Migration called calendar year 2022 “the deadliest year on record” for migration in the Americas, with a total of 1,457 fatalities throughout South America, Central America, North America and the Caribbean. The organization began tracking deaths and disappearances related to migration in 2014.

“Most of these fatalities are related to the lack of options for safe and regular mobility, which increases the likelihood that people see no other choice but to opt for irregular migration routes that put their lives at risk,” the organization said in its  2022 report .

Trump suggested that the border crossings imperil Americans when he went on to say, “these killers are coming into our country, and they are raping and killing women.”

But, as  we’ve written before , FBI data show a downward trend in violent crime in the U.S., and there’s no evidence to support the claim that there’s been a crime wave driven by immigrants.

Crime analyst Jeff Asher, co-founder of the New Orleans firm  AH Datalytics , told us in May that there’s no evidence in the data to indicate a migrant crime wave.

Similarly, Jeffrey Butts, director of the Research and Evaluation Center at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice,  told the New York Times  in February there was no evidence of a migrant crime wave in New York City after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott began busing migrants there in April 2022.

“I would interpret a ‘wave’ to mean something significant, meaningful and a departure from the norm,” Butts said at the time. “So far, what we have are individual incidents of crime.”

Also, it’s worth noting that the Institute for Economics and Peace’s  Global Peace Index  — which measures the safety of 163 countries based on 23 indicators, including violent crime, deaths from internal conflict and terrorism — said the “least peaceful country” is Afghanistan, followed by Yemen, Syria, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In discussing inflation, the former president embellished the degree to which food prices have increased.

“It’s killing people. They can’t buy groceries anymore,” Trump said. “You look at the cost of food, where it’s doubled, tripled and quadrupled. They can’t live.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Consumer Price Index for food has  gone up 17.5%  — not 100% to 300% — since January 2021. The Consumer Price Index specifically for groceries, or “food at home,” has  risen 20.8% .

Climate Change

During a short exchange about climate change, Trump boasted that during his tenure “we had the best environmental numbers ever.” It is not clear what he was referring to exactly, but he said if elected president he wanted to have “absolutely immaculate clean water and I want absolutely clean air — and we had it.” He might have been referring to a talking point that Andrew Wheeler, Trump’s former Environmental Protection Agency administrator, had recommended Trump mention during the debate: “CO2 emissions went down” during his administration, as  the Hill reported . 

Greenhouse gas emissions, which are responsible for global warming,  did decline  from 2019 to 2020. But that was “largely due to the impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on travel and economic activity,” according to the EPA. Emissions increased by 5.7% from 2020 to 2022, once the economy started getting reactivated again, the agency said. 

According to an  analysis by the New York Times , Trump’s administration reversed nearly 100 environmental rules, including 28 regulations on air pollution and emissions, and eight rules that limited water pollution. Reportedly, Trump  recently asked  oil executives and lobbyists to donate to his campaign, promising he would roll back other environmental rules that hurt fossil fuel interests. 

“He’s not done a damn thing for the environment,” Biden said in response, pointing out that Trump had  pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement . “I immediately joined it because if we reach the 1.5 degrees Celsius … there’s no way back,” Biden said. 

As  we’ve reported , although reaching 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, of warming comes with a number of very serious impacts, it is not a point of no return. Scientists agree that every increment of global warming increases these negative impacts, but 1.5 degrees is not a magic number after which everything is doomed, they say. 

Immigrants Living in Hotels

During the debate, Trump  mentioned   twice  that while immigrants crossing the border illegally were “living in luxury hotels,” in New York City and other cities “our veterans are living in the street.”

While it is true that New York City has  provided   hotel   rooms  to migrant families as a temporary shelter solution, there is no evidence that immigrants are being placed in “luxury” hotels. 

In 2023, Mayor Eric Adams  signed  a $275 million contract with the Hotel Association of New York City to house 5,000 migrants. The deal was intended to help  struggling hotels  impacted by the pandemic and did not expect to include luxury hotels. “There are no gold-plated rooms that are being given away contrary to any reports that you may have seen,” the association president  told NY1  at the time. In January, the city  signed  another $77 million contract to shelter migrant families in hotels. 

In April, social media posts falsely claimed immigrants had stormed New York City Hall to demand luxury hotel accommodations. But as the  Associated Press reported , the immigrants were there for a hearing about racial inequities in shelter and immigrant services. 

In 2023, the number of veterans experiencing homelessness increased 7.4% from 2022, according to  data  from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. But homelessness among veterans has been declining in recent years, with a 4% overall reduction within the last three years alone. 

Terrorist Attacks Under Trump

While talking about Iran and terrorism, Trump falsely claimed that “you had no terror, at all, during my administration.” As  we’ve written , there were several acts of terrorism carried out by foreign-born individuals when Trump was in office.

For example, in October 2017, Sayfullo Saipov  used  a truck to run down people in New York City. He killed eight people,  including  Americans and tourists, in an attack carried out on behalf of the Islamic State.

Then in December 2017, Akayed Ullah  detonated  a homemade pipe bomb he was wearing inside a New York City subway station. Ullah  told  authorities he did it in response to U.S. airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria and other places.

Then in  December 2019 , Second Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, a member of the Royal Saudi Air Force, shot 11 people at Florida’s Naval Air Station Pensacola, killing three U.S. sailors. Trump’s own attorney general, William Barr,  called  it an act of terrorism in January 2020. “The evidence shows that the shooter was motivated by jihadist ideology,” Barr said in a statement.

China Trade Deficit

When discussing U.S. trade relations with China, Trump said “we have the largest deficit with China.” That’s false, as  we’ve written .

In 2023, the U.S. had a trade deficit with China in goods and services of roughly $252 billion,  according to  revised figures the Bureau of Economic Analysis  released  in early June. The deficit in goods trading was about $279 billion which was partially offset by a roughly $27 billion surplus in the trading of  services  — which can include travel, transportation, finance and intellectual property.

The trade gap with China last year was the lowest it had been since 2009, when it was $220 billion.

In fact, according to BEA data going back to 1999, the highest total U.S.-China trade deficit in goods and services was about $378 billion in 2018 — when Trump was president. Under Biden, the highest trade deficit with China was $366 billion in 2022.

Not ‘Greatest Economy’ Under Trump

Trump falsely said that prior to the pandemic, the U.S. had “the greatest economy in the history of our country. … Everything was locked in good.”

Trump’s boast about creating the “greatest economy in history” is ubiquitous in his campaign speeches. And it’s not true, at least not by the objective measure typically used to gauge the health of the economy.

As  we have written , economists generally measure a nation’s health by the growth of its  inflation-adjusted gross domestic product . Under Trump, growth was modest. Real GDP in Trump’s four years grew annually by 2.5% in 2017, 3% in 2018 and 2.5% in 2019 — before the economy went into a tailspin during the pandemic in 2020, when real GDP declined by 2.2%,  according to  the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

So, in the best year under Trump, U.S. real GDP grew annually by 3%. By contrast, the nation’s economy grew at a faster annual rate  48 times  and under every president before and after Trump dating to 1930, except Barack Obama and Herbert Hoover. The economy grew at more than 3% six of Ronald Reagan’s eight years, including 7.2% in 1984, and it grew 5% or more 10 times under Franklin D. Roosevelt, including 18.9% in 1942.  Under Biden , the GDP grew by 5.8% in 2021 — a post COVID-19 bounce-back — by 1.9% in 2022 and 2.5% in 2023.

Trump’s Was Not Largest Tax Cut in History

As he has many times before, Trump wrongly claimed, “I gave you the largest tax cut in history.” But saying this over and over, as Trump has for years, doesn’t make it any more true.

As  we have been writing  even before the 2017  Tax Cuts and Jobs Act  was enacted into law, while the law provided tax relief to nearly all Americans, it was not the largest tax cut in U.S. history either as a percentage of gross domestic product (the measure preferred by economists) or in inflation-adjusted dollars.

According to a Tax Policy Center  analysis , the law reduced the individual income taxes owed by Americans by about $1,260 on average in 2018. It also reduced the top corporate tax rate from  35% to 21% , beginning in January 2018.

The law signed by Trump was initially projected to cost $1.49 trillion over 10 years,  according to the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation . It could end up costing substantially more if individual tax provisions are extended past 2025. Over the first four years, the average annual cost was estimated to be $185 billion. That was about 0.9% of  gross domestic product  in 2018.

That’s nowhere close to President Ronald Reagan’s 1981 tax cut, which was 2.89% of GDP over a four-year average. That’s according to a  2013 Treasury Department analysis  on the revenue effects of major tax legislation. Five more tax measures since 1940 had an impact larger than 1% of GDP, and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget  includes  a 1921 measure as also being larger than the 2017 plan. That’s eighth place for Trump’s “biggest tax cut in our history.”

In inflation-adjusted dollars, the Trump-era tax cut is also less than the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, which comes in at No. 1 with a $320.6 billion cost over a four-year average. And it’s less than tax reductions in 2010 ($210 billion) and 1981 ($208 billion).

Energy Independence

Trump boasted, as he  often does , that “on Jan. 6 [2021], we were energy independent,” implying that’s no longer the case under Biden. But by Trump’s definition, the country remains energy independent.

To be clear, under Trump, the U.S. never stopped  importing  sources of energy,  including crude oil , from other countries. What he likely means is that the country either  produced  more energy than it consumed, or  exported  more energy than it imported. During Trump’s presidency, after years trending in that direction, the U.S. did hit a tipping point where exports of primary energy exceeded energy imports from foreign sources in 2019 and 2020 — the first times that had happened since 1952,  according to  the U.S. Energy Information Administration. 

But contrary to Trump’s suggestion, that has continued in the Biden presidency. The U.S., during Biden’s presidency, has  exported  more energy,  including petroleum , than it imported, and it has  produced  more energy than it consumed. Also, the U.S. is producing record amounts of  oil  and  natural gas  under Biden.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org does not accept advertising. We rely on grants and individual donations from people like you. Please consider a donation. Credit card donations may be made through  our “Donate” page . If you prefer to give by check, send to: FactCheck.org, Annenberg Public Policy Center, 202 S. 36th St., Philadelphia, PA 19104. 

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Fact-checking Biden and Trump's claims at the first debate

Forget alternative facts and political spin: Thursday's presidential debate was more like a tsunami of falsity.

Former President Donald Trump unleashed a torrent of misinformation on topics from terrorism to taxes during the first debate of the 2024 general election, while President Joe Biden flubbed figures and facts about military deaths and insulin prices.

More than a dozen NBC News reporters, editors and correspondents fact-checked the key claims the presidential candidates made Thursday night. Here they are by topic:

Economy, trade and health care

Fact check: did biden inherit 9% inflation.

“He also said he inherited 9% inflation. Now, he inherited almost no inflation, and it stayed that way for 14 months, and then it blew up under his leadership,” Trump said about Biden.

This is false.

The inflation rate when Biden took office in January 2021 wasn’t 9%. It was 1.4%. It has risen on his watch, peaking at about 9.1% in June 2022, but by last month it had come down to 3.3%. Pandemic-related stimulus policies put in place by both Trump and Biden were blamed, in part, for the rise in the inflation rate.

Fact check: Did Biden lower the cost of insulin to $15 a shot?

“We brought down the price of prescription drugs, which is a major issue for many people, to $15 for an insulin shot — as opposed to $400,” Biden said.

Biden capped the cost of insulin at $35 a month under Medicare, not $15 a shot, and some drug companies have matched that cap. The price cap doesn’t apply to everyone , however. 

What’s more, Biden’s also significantly overstating how much insulin cost before the change. A 2022 report by the Department of Health and Human Services found that patients using insulin spent an average of $434 annually on insulin in 2019 — not $400 a shot.

Fact check: Did Trump lower the cost of insulin?

Trump claimed credit for lowering the cost of insulin for seniors, saying, “I am the one who got the insulin down for the seniors.”

That is mostly false.

In 2020, Trump created a voluntary program under Medicare Part D. The program allowed Medicare Part D plans to offer some insulin products for no more than $35 per month. It was active from 2021 to 2023, with fewer than half of the plans participating each year. 

In 2022, Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act, which included a provision that lowered the out-of-pocket cost for people on Medicare to $35 a month and covered all insulin products. The cap didn’t apply to those with private insurance. However, after the law was implemented, insulin manufacturers voluntarily lowered the out-of-pocket cost to $35 a month for people with private insurance.

Fact check: Does Biden want to raise ‘everybody’s taxes’ by four times?

“Nobody ever cut taxes like us. He wants to raise your taxes by four times. He wants to raise everybody’s taxes by four times,” Trump claimed. “He wants the Trump tax cuts to expire.”

Biden’s tax plan “holds harmless for 98% of households,” said Kyle Pomerleau, senior fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. And Biden wants to extend the majority of the Trump tax cuts, too, though he has advocated for hiking taxes on very high earners.

Fact check: Biden said the U.S. trade deficit with China is at its lowest since 2010

“We are at the lowest trade deficit with China since 2010,” Biden said.

This is true.

The U.S. had $279 billion more in imports than exports to China last year, the lowest trade deficit with the world’s second-largest economy since 2010. The highest deficit in recent years was $418 billion, in 2018, when Trump began a trade war with China. 

The decline has been driven largely by tariffs that Trump imposed in office and that Biden has maintained and in some cases expanded.

Fact check: Are immigrants taking ‘Black jobs’?

Asked about Black voters who are disappointed with their economic progress, Trump claimed Black Americans are losing their jobs because of illegal border crossings under Biden’s administration.

“The fact is that his big kill on the Black people is the millions of people that he’s allowed to come through the border. They’re taking Black jobs now,” Trump said.

There’s no evidence that undocumented immigrants are taking jobs away from Black Americans. In fact, according  to the Bureau of Labor Statistics , the Black unemployment rate fell to 4.8% in April 2023 — an all-time low. Before that, the Black unemployment rate was as high as 10.2% in April 2021.

Immigration

Fact check: did trump end catch and release.

“We ended ‘catch and release,’” Trump said.

Trump did not end “catch and release,” a term used to describe the practice of releasing migrants into the country with court dates while they await court hearings. The U.S. doesn’t have enough facilities to detain every migrant who crosses the border until they can see judges, no matter who is president, so Trump — like Barack Obama before him and Biden after him — released many migrants back into the U.S.

Fact check: Did the Border Patrol union endorse Biden?

“By the way, the Border Patrol endorsed me, endorsed my position,” Biden said.

The National Border Patrol Council, the labor union for U.S. Border Patrol agents and staff members, has endorsed Trump. 

“The National Border Patrol Council has proudly endorsed Donald J. Trump for President of the United States,” the group’s vice president, Hector Garza, said in a statement shared exclusively with NBC News. 

The union posted on X , “to be clear, we never have and never will endorse Biden.”

Biden may have been referring to a Senate immigration bill that he backed, which earned the union’s endorsement .

Fact check: Did Trump have ‘the safest border in the history of our country’?

“We had the safest border in the history of our country,” Trump said.

It’s a clear exaggeration. In 2019, the last year before the Covid-19 pandemic brought down border crossings, there were roughly 860,000 illegal border crossings, far more than in any year during the Obama administration.

Fact check: Trump says Biden is allowing ‘millions’ of criminals to enter U.S.

“I’d love to ask him … why he’s allowed millions of people to come in from prisons, jails and mental institutions to come into our country and destroy our country,” Trump said.

There is no evidence of this.

Venezuela doesn’t share law enforcement information with U.S. authorities, making it very hard to verify criminal histories of immigrants coming to the U.S. But there’s no evidence that Venezuela is purposefully sending “millions” of people from mental institutions and prisons to the U.S.

Fact check: Did Virginia’s former governor support infanticide?

“They will take the life of a child in the eighth month, the ninth month and even after birth. After birth. If you look at the former governor of Virginia, he was willing to do so, and we’ll determine what we do with the baby. Meaning we’ll kill the baby. ... So that means he can take the life of the baby in the ninth month and even after birth. Because some states, Democrat-run, take it after birth. Again, the governor, the former Virginia governor, put the baby down so that we decide what to do with it. He’s willing to, as we say, rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month and kill the baby. Nobody wants that to happen, Democrat or Republican; nobody wants it to happen,” Trump said.

While some Democrats support broad access to abortion regardless of gestation age, infanticide is illegal, and no Democrats advocate for it. Just 1% of abortions are performed after 21 weeks’ gestation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .

Trump first made the claim in 2019, after Virginia’s governor at the time, Ralph Northam, made controversial remarks in discussing an abortion bill. NBC News debunked the claim then, reporting that Northam’s remarks were about resuscitating infants with severe deformities or nonviable pregnancies. 

Asked on a radio program what happens when a woman who is going into labor desires a third-trimester abortion, Northam noted that such procedures occur only in cases of severe deformities or nonviable pregnancies. He said that in those scenarios, “the infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”

Terrorism, foreign policy and the military

Fact check: trump said there was ‘no terror’ during his tenure.

“That’s why you had no terror, at all, during my administration. This place, the whole world, is blowing up under him,” Trump said.

There were two ISIS-inspired terrorist attacks while Trump was president. The first occurred in October 2017, when Sayfullo Saipov killed eight people and injured a dozen more in a vehicle ramming attack on the West Side Highway bike path in New York City. The second occurred in December 2017, when Akayed Ullah injured four people when he set off a bomb strapped to himself.

Fact check: Biden suggests no troops died under his watch

“The truth is I’m the only president this century that doesn’t have any this decade and any troops dying anywhere in the world like he did,” Biden said.

The Defense Department confirmed that 13 U.S. service members were killed in a suicide bombing attack at Abbey Gate at the Kabul airport by a member of ISIS-K as the U.S. was leaving Afghanistan. 

Environment

Fact check: did trump have the ‘best environmental numbers ever’.

“During my four years, I had the best environmental numbers ever, and my top environmental people gave me that statistic just before I walked on the stage, actually,” Trump said.

The figure Trump is referring to is the fact that carbon emissions fell during his administration. He posted the talking points his former Environmental Protection Agency chief emailed him on social media before the debate.

And it’s true that carbon emissions are falling — they have been dropping for years. Emissions particularly plunged in 2020, dropping to levels around those in 1983 and 1984. That drop was in large part thanks to Covid lockdowns, and emissions rose again when air travel and in-person working resumed. 

Still, climate activists and experts are quick to note that those drops are nowhere near enough to head off predicted catastrophic effects of global warming. Other major countries cut their emissions at a much faster rate during the Trump administration.

Fact check: The Jan. 6 crowd was not ‘ushered in’ by the police

“If you would see my statements that I made on Twitter at the time and also my statement that I made in the Rose Garden, you would say it’s one of the strongest statements you’ve ever seen. In addition to the speech I made in front of, I believe, the largest crowd I’ve ever spoken to, and I will tell you, nobody ever talks about that. They talk about a relatively small number of people that went to the Capitol and, in many cases, were ushered in by the police. And as Nancy Pelosi said, it was her responsibility, not mine. She said that loud and clear,” Trump said.

During a lengthy answer to a question about whether he would accept the result of the 2024 election and say all political violence is unacceptable, Trump made several false statements, including the claim that police “ushered” rioters into the U.S. Capitol and that then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said it was her responsibility to keep the chamber safe. 

Video and news reports of the Jan. 6 riots clearly captured the U.S. Capitol under attack by pro-Trump crowds who overran the law enforcement presence around and inside the complex. 

On Pelosi, Trump was most likely referring to video shot by Pelosi’s daughter Alexandra for an HBO documentary that showed her during the events of Jan. 6, 2021, tensely wondering how the Capitol was allowed to be stormed.

“We have responsibility, Terri,” Pelosi tells her chief of staff, Terri McCullough, as they leave the Capitol in a vehicle. “We did not have any accountability for what was going on there, and we should have. This is ridiculous.”

“You’re going to ask me in the middle of the thing, when they’ve already breached the inaugural stuff, ‘Should we call the Capitol Police?’ I mean the National Guard. Why weren’t the National Guard there to begin with?” Pelosi says in the video. 

“They clearly didn’t know, and I take responsibility for not having them just prepare for more,” she says. 

Many allies of Trump have tried for the more than three years since the riots to paint Pelosi as somehow being responsible for the violence. Some Trump-backing Republicans have, for example, falsely claimed that she blocked the National Guard from going to the Capitol during the riots.

And everything else ...

Fact check: trump skipped world war i cemetery visit because the soldiers who died were ‘losers’.

Biden said that Trump “refused to go to” a World War I cemetery and that “he was standing with his four-star general” who said Trump said, “I don’t want to go in there, because they’re a bunch of losers and suckers.”

In 2018, during a trip to France, Trump canceled a visit to an American cemetery near Paris, blaming weather for the decision. 

But in September 2020, The Atlantic reported that Trump had axed the visit because he felt that those who’d lost their lives and been buried there were “losers.” The magazine cited “four people with firsthand knowledge of those discussions.”

According to The Atlantic, Trump said: “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” In another conversation, The Atlantic reported, Trump said the 1,800 American Marines who died were “suckers.” 

Several media outlets confirmed the remarks, and Trump’s former White House chief of staff John Kelly also said those specific comments were true.

Fact check: Trump says Biden didn’t run for president due to 2017 Charlottesville rally

“He made up the Charlottesville story, and you’ll see it’s debunked all over the place. Every anchor has — every reasonable anchor has debunked it, and just the other day it came out where it was fully debunked. It’s a nonsense story. He knows that, and he didn’t run because of Charlottesville. He used that as an excuse to run,” Trump said about Biden.

The “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 featured torch-bearing white supremacists marching to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue and chanting racist slogans like “You will not replace us.” It turned deadly when a car plowed into a crowd .

In recent months, Trump has downplayed the violence, saying it was “nothing” compared to recent pro-Palestinian protests on university campuses.

Meanwhile, Biden has always pointed to Trump’s 2017 comments as the primary reason he decided to seek the presidency in 2020, including in his campaign announcement video back in April 2019 .

checking out me history thesis statement

Jane C. Timm is a senior reporter for NBC News.

checking out me history thesis statement

Julia Ainsley is the homeland security correspondent for NBC News and covers the Department of Homeland Security for the NBC News Investigative Unit.

checking out me history thesis statement

Adam Edelman is a political reporter for NBC News.

checking out me history thesis statement

Tom Winter is a New York-based correspondent covering crime, courts, terrorism and financial fraud on the East Coast for the NBC News Investigative Unit.

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COMMENTS

  1. Checking Out Me History Poem Summary and Analysis

    "Checking Out Me History" was written by the British Guyanese poet John Agard and first published in 2005, in the collection Half-Caste. The poem focuses on the holes in the British colonial education system—particularly that system's omission of important figures from African, Caribbean, and indigenous history.

  2. Checking Out Me History by John Agard (Poem + Analysis)

    Poem Analyzed by Andrew Walker. B.A. Honors in Professional Writing and Communication (Minor in Historical Studies) When John Agard wrote 'Checking Out Me History' (published in 2005), however, he wanted a different voice to be the speaker of the poem — not the reader, and not necessarily himself either, but someone who didn't already ...

  3. Checking Out Me History

    A 'translation' of the poem, section-by-section. A commentary of each of these sections, outlining Agard's intention and message. Checking Out Me History in a nutshell. Checking Out Me History is a modern poem published in 2007 by the poet John Agard, who was born in British Guiana, now called Guyana, in the Caribbean.

  4. Why I love…Comparing Poems: AQA 'Checking Out Me History' with 'The

    Both poems 'The Emigree' and 'Checking Out Me History' explore a feeling of conflict over the persona's own individual identity as a result of displacement and historical inaccuracy. Rumens and Agard appear to reflect with melancholy on the past, long for something different and understand the disparity that they live with.

  5. "Checking Out Me History" by John Agard: A Critical Analysis

    Themes: "Checking Out Me History" by John Agard. Theme 1: The Distortion of History as a Tool of Colonialism: In "Checking Out Me History," Agard exposes how history can be weaponized by those in power. The speaker laments, "Dem tell me / Wha dem want to tell me / Bandage up me eye with me own history / Blind me to me own identity.".

  6. Checking Out Me History, John Agard

    The context behind 'Checking Out Me History' is key to understanding its deeper message. The writer, John Agard, is a Guyanese poet born in Grantham, British Guiana, in 1949 where he grew up before moving to London in 1977. He, therefore, spent his formative years in Guiana as a British colony, following a British curriculum at school before the nation became independent, and subsequently ...

  7. Checking Out Me History (John Agard)

    Checking Out Me History by John Agard is a powerful and impassioned poem that challenges traditional narratives of history and celebrates the voices of marginalised individuals and communities. Through a blend of historical and cultural references, Agard explores themes of identity, empowerment, and the importance of reclaiming one's own history.

  8. John Agard

    Checking Out Me History Lyrics. Dem tell me. Dem tell me. Wha dem want to tell me. Bandage up me eye with me own history. Blind me to me own identity. Dem tell me bout 1066 and all dat. Dem tell ...

  9. Understanding the poem 'Checking Out Me History'

    Agard received a Eurocentric perspective on history, growing up in Guyana whilst it was a British colony. Agard shares his indignation that the education system restricted him from understanding his full identity. In his poem, Agard affirms his Caribbean heritage through his use of Guyanese creole. Agard celebrates Caribbean figures, neglected ...

  10. Lesson: Analysing the Poem 'Checking Out Me History'

    Plosives and monosyllabic words convey an indignant tone, showing the harm that is caused by colonial control. The poem is didactic, teaching the reader about Black history, encouraging them to find out about their own identity. Natural imagery and light imagery is used to portray figures from Agard's heritage, celebrating their power.

  11. Checking Out Me History

    Popularity of "Checking Out Me History": Published in 2015 in the collection Half-Castle, "Checking Out Me History" is a descriptive poetic piece.John Agard finds the holes in the British colonial education system. He highlights how cleverly historians have omitted the names of important figures from the Caribbean and African literature.

  12. Identity in checking out me history and the emigree sample essay

    The opening stanza immediately creates a critical, accusatory tone through the harsh, plosive sounds of the verbs "Bandage up me own eye/ Blind me to me own identity". Agard seems to suggest that the singularly "white" education he received was harmful to him, as the words "bandage" and "blind" connote injury and pain.

  13. Comparing 'Checking Out Me History' and 'The Émigrée'

    Both 'The Émigrée' and 'Checking Out Me History' explore big ideas of oppression, power and identity. Both poems criticise oppressive systems due to the detrimental effect they can have on identity. Both poets reconnect with their heritage: Rumens personifying her country and Agard telling stories in his dialect.

  14. London and Checking Out Me History

    Checking Out Me History is a contemporary poem published in 2007 whereas, William Blake's London was written in 1794. Blake wrote two volumes of poetry which explored the state of the human soul. London comes from the 'Songs of Experience' collection which explored how society had been corrupted. Blake held radical political views for the ...

  15. Essay for Checking Out me History and the Emigree Flashcards

    Thesis Statement. Both poems 'The Emigree' and 'Checking Out Me History' explore a feeling of conflict over the persona's own individual identity as a result of displacement and historical inaccuracy. Rumens and Agard appear to reflect with melancholy on the past, long for something different and understand the disparity that they live with.

  16. Checking Out Me History vs London

    In Checking Out Me History, John Agard presents ideas of racial injustice by looking at how History is taught at school and how powerful black historical figures are simply shunned out by Western society. Whereas William Blake presents social injustice in London through the fact that people are restricted and they lack freedom due to the misuse ...

  17. PDF AQA English GCSE Poetry: Power and Conflict

    yellow sunrise to the dying. Dem tell me Dem tell me wha dem want to tell me But now I checking out me own history. I carving out me identity. There are numerous references throughout the poem: Toussaint L'Ouverture led the revolution by black slaves against the French colony of Haiti and led to their freedom.

  18. checking out me history ~ john agard Flashcards

    "dem" -> them phonetic spelling -> forces the reader to adopt his voice -> as he was forced adopt european history -> colonisers manipulated young minds -> monosyllabic -> strips away any formality -> Agard's rejection of imposed white history not standard english -> Agard's rejection of the english lang. + the restrictions imposed by colonial rule. phonetic spelling -> reflect Agard's dialect ...

  19. Checking Out Me History and London comparison lesson (AQA Power and

    This lesson was originally intended for students in year 11 who had previously been taught the poems Checking Out Me History by John Agard and London by William Blake, in year 10, and are now re-learning/revising them comparatively. ... Benefit to teachers: * Comparative essay plans with three thematic thesis statements and evidence per poem ...

  20. "London" + "Checking Out Me History" L7-L8 Grade Comparative ...

    Age range: 11-14. Resource type: Unit of work. File previews. pdf, 48.29 KB. In this resource, you'll find a comparative essay for the poems from the AQA Power and Conflict Poetry collection: "London" + "Checking Out Me History". This is a borderline L7/L8 A/A* Comparative Essay example that was completed by a student, with bonus ...

  21. Poem Comparison: Shared Themes in "The Emigree" and "Checking Out Me

    In this compare and contrast essay, the student compares and contrasts how the themes of tyranny, censorship, connection, and oppression are presented in "The Emigree" by Carol Rumens and "Checking Out Me History" by John Agard. The comparative analysis focuses on language and how the depicted themes represent the time and place historically ...

  22. Summary The Émigrée and Checking Out Me History detailed ...

    Detailed comparison plan between The Émigrée and Checking Out Me History. Includes 2 comparison thesis statements, quotes and language analysis, structure and context for both poems. 100% satisfaction guarantee Immediately available after payment Both online and in PDF No strings attached

  23. Emigree VS COMH Esssay

    In the Emigree and Checking out me History we are alerted to both poets being oppressed. They love their identity unconditionally; however, in Emigree, there's a great struggle to reclaim identity. In Checking out me History, Agard is trying his best to resist oppression Similarly, in both poems, we see both poets have great emotional ...

  24. FactChecking the Biden-Trump Debate

    Summary. The much-anticipated first debate of 2024 between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump featured a relentless barrage of false and misleading statements from the two ...

  25. Fact-checking Biden and Trump's claims at the first debate

    Trump made a series of misleading claims on topics ranging from Jan. 6 to terrorism to taxes at the first 2024 presidential debate, while Biden flubbed some facts.

  26. Six Takeaways From the First Biden-Trump Presidential Debate

    Before the debate, Biden allies tried to pressure the CNN moderators, Jake Tapper and Dana Bash, to aggressively fact-check any false statements made by Mr. Trump.