Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos

by Public Enemy

Writing Workshop

Workshop Title: Chaos

Step 1

Start by watching “Black Steel In The Hour of Chaos” by Public Enemy. When it is done, discuss the literal elements of the video and song. What is taking place in this “fictionalization”? What is the “story” or narrative?

Step 2

Briefly discuss the song. What cultural or societal issues does it address? How? What commentary does it offer?

Step 3

Say, “Choose a cultural or societal ill that you would like to address. Then construct a “fictional” scenario that addresses that issue. What “happens” in your story? Where does it take place? How does it happen? Why does it happen?” Give your students a few minutes to brainstorm.

Step 4

Ask your students to compose a poem similar in style to “Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos” in which they provide social commentary on an issue through a “fictionalized” story or narrative.

Step 5

When the students are done, have them share their responses with one another.

The full presentation may be found HERE.

Analytical Lesson

Area of Focus: Various

Step 1

This lesson allows students to analyze various concepts and skills, so it is recommended that you have covered several of the “standalone” lessons before assigning this one.

Step 2

Start by showing your students the following video, an overview of economic and racial divisions in Vietnam-era America.

Step 3

When the video is done, show the following music video, “Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos” by Public Enemy.

Step 4

Briefly discuss the link between the two videos. Even though Public Enemy’s video was released over a decade after the Vietnam War, how does it reflect the same attitudes or sentiments? Where are the overlaps?

Step 5

Tell your students that they are going to explore the song by creating a video in the style of a “Pop Up” music video. Pop Up Video was a VH1 television show that “pops up” bubbles — officially called “info nuggets” — containing trivia, witticisms and innuendos throughout music videos. Show your students the following example for reference.

Step 6

Have your students open the following document and go over the instructions with them. In this assignment, your students are going to analyze the song and explore the historical connections by creating a “Pop Up” video. When you’ve gone through the instructions and examples, give your students time to work.

Step 7

When your students are done, either have them share their analyses or their videos with the rest of the class.

Lesson Details

Lesson Info


  • Various


  • Class
  • Criminal Justice
  • History
  • Police Brutality / Profiling
  • Race / Ethnicity / Racism
  • Social Movements / Protest
  • Violence
  • War

Literary Tags

  • Diction
  • Figurative Language
  • Selection of Detail
  • Sound Devices
  • Structure (Rhyme Scheme)
  • Tone

Content Warning

  • Racism or Racial Slurs
  • Violence