Mr. T

by Terrance Hayes

Writing Workshop

Workshop Title: Character

Step 1

Say, “Watch the following video about Mr. T. Then discuss why you think some people were offended by his depiction in popular media when he first burst on the scene in the early 1980’s. After you’ve held your discussion, read the following editorial.” Then briefly discuss.

Step 2

Read “Mr. T” by Terrance Hayes. When you’re done, briefly discuss how the poem reflects the same feelings & sentiment as Michael Wilbon, the author of the editorial we just looked at.

Step 3

Say, “Reflect on another fictional character who essentially served as a caricature or stereotype. Who were they? What traits did they possess? Write down as much as you can about their portrayal.” Then give them a few minutes to brainstorm.

Step 4

Have your students compose a poem similar in sentiment “Mr. T” by Terrance Hayes in which they explore the portrayal of another fictional character.

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 about Mr. T.

Step 3

When your video is done, ask them about his portrayal on film and on TV, regardless of his role (Clubber Lang, B.A. Baracus, etc.). What were his attributes or traits?

Step 4

Now have your students read the following editorial from journalist Michael Wilbon. When you’re done, briefly discuss the article. What is Wilbon’s perception of the character Mr. T plays? Why?

Step 5

Read “Mr. T” by Terrance Hayes. As you are reading, simply ask your students to think about Mr. T’s depiction throughout the piece. How does it mirror what they know about his character and Wilbon’s (and many others’) feelings toward Mr. T’s depiction on screen?

Step 6

Ask your students to open the following document and go over the instructions with them. In this assignment, your students are going to write a sonnet from Mr. T’s perspective that mirrors the same sentiment and message as the original piece of text from Terrance Hayes. When you’ve gone through the directions, give your students time to work.

Step 7

When your students are done, have a few of them share their sonnets with the rest of the class.

Step 8

If time permits, share the exemplar essay.

Lesson Details

Lesson Info


  • Various


  • Class
  • History
  • Race / Ethnicity / Racism

Literary Tags

  • Diction
  • Figurative Language
  • Imagery
  • Selection of Detail
  • Structure (Sonnets)
  • Tone

Content Warning

  • Racism or Racial Slurs