Grade Levels: 9 - 12
Estimated Time: Ten 50-minute class sessions with out-of-class time for students to research, draft, edit, and prepare required writing projects.
The Harlem Renaissance represents an era in American history during which the uniqueness of African-American culture was celebrated. It was a period marked by an active and vibrant nightlife; by the publishing of a great number of short stories, plays, poems and novels by and about African-Americans; by musicals written by and starring African-Americans; and, by the creation of artwork by and about African-Americans. The Harlem Renaissance was an age during which African-Americans sought to dispel common stereotypes through their art.
This lesson begins with a summary of the history and chronology of the Harlem Renaissance. Historical background consists of topics such as the northern migration of African-Americans, prohibition, postwar conditions and race relations. During this historical overview, students focus on Harlem as a "Mecca" for African American artists, musicians, and writers. Students read and respond to literary selections that either portray the Harlem jazz scene or were written during the period; they also listen and respond to relevant jazz pieces and view videotapes that illustrate the distinctiveness of the Harlem Renaissance jazz scene. Finally, students demonstrate their understanding of the Harlem Renaissance jazz scene by constructing an exhibit and producing written, artistic and musical interpretations.
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"The Weary Blues"
"Red Silk Stockings"
"Lenox Avenue: Midnight"
"Juke Box Love Song"
"Harlem Night Club"
"The Cat and the Saxophone (2 a.m.)"
(Selections may be found in many anthologies such as Selected Poems of Langston Hughes and The Langston Hughes Reader.)
"Miss Cynthie" by Rudolph Fisher
"When the Negro Was in Vogue" from The Big Sea by Langston Hughes
"Ma Rainey" by Sterling Brown
"Cabaret" by Sterling Brown
"Poem" by Helene Johnson
"Harlem" by Frank Horne
"Jazz at Home" an essay by Joel A. Rogers
Principal artists: Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald Written by Billy Strayhorn You must take the "A" train To go to Sugar Hill way up in Harlem If you miss the "A" train You'll find you missed the quickest way to Harlem Hurry, get on, now it's coming Listen to those rails a-thrumming All aboard, get on the "A" train Soon you will be on Sugar Hill in Harlem
Principal artists: Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald Written by Duke Ellington What good is melody, what good is music If it ain't possessin' something sweet It ain't the melody, it ain't the music There's something else that makes the tune complete It don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing It don't mean a thing, all you got to do is sing It makes no diff'rence if it's sweet or hot Just give that rhythm ev'rything you got It don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing
Audio tape or CD
Your choice of selected fine arts work. Suggested include:
(Note: Prints are often used in student anthologies to illustrate literature. One series, The Prentice-Hall Literature Series, contains a variety of prints that illustrate jazz.)
Equipment & Technology
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Session Two: Drop Me Off in Harlem
Session Three: History of Harlem
It is strongly recommended that you view Episode Two in its entirety, since the continuity of the entire episode more wholly and accurately represents Harlem life. In the event that this is not possible, the following segments are recommended:
Session Four: Harlem Renaissance Time Line
Session Five: Langston Hughes's Harlem
Session Six: Writing Descriptions of Harlem
Session Seven: Jazz Poems by Langston Hughes
Consider the reference to the transformation from the daytime jail to nighttime musical celebrity, a situation all too familiar to the African-Americans at that time.
Session Eight: Writing Harlem Renaissance Vignettes
Session Nine: Time Travel Back to the Harlem Renaissance
Session Ten: Evaluating the Display Area (Formative Assessment)
4--clear and appropriate organization, effective transitions that help readers to follow the organizational pattern, clear overall purpose, vivid details that relate to the overall focus of the description, few or no errors in mechanics, usage, grammar, or spelling, careful and precise word choice
3--focused and clear organization such as spatial or order of importance, use of transitions that help the reader follow the organizational pattern, details that support what is being described, descriptive words and phrases that help the reader visualize what is being described, minor errors in mechanics, usage, grammar and spelling
2--weak organization, inadequate transitions, some details that include too many extraneous ones, vague descriptive words that do not help the reader to visualize what is being described, numerous errors in mechanics, usage, grammar and spelling
1--no noticeable organization, unclear purpose, lack of transitions, few details, overall description is not helpful in helping readers to visualize what is being described, numerous errors in usage, mechanics, grammar or spelling that hinder comprehension, imprecise word choice
4--Clearly communicates understanding of key concepts, clear and coherent organization, participation of most group members, evidence of originality and/or creativity, engages the audience, goes beyond expectations
3--Demonstrates understanding of key concepts, clear organization, content relates to the purpose, participation of most of the group members, evidence of originality and/or creativity, engages the audience.
2--Demonstrates misinformation of some key concepts, weak organization, somewhat relates to purpose, participation by at least half of the group members, some evidence of originality or creativity, somewhat engages the audience.
1--Demonstrates obvious misconceptions or misinformation, too many vocal fillers, lacks coherent organization, does not relate to purpose, lack of participation of most group members, little or no evidence of creativity, does not engage the audience.
Guide students in choosing a way in which they can share their understanding and knowledge. Suggestions include the following:
Most activities and assessments are suitable for various skill levels and learning modalities. However, take into account the make up of the class and make adjustments as needed. For instance, less advanced students may be asked to paraphrase a selection prior to interpreting a selection, while average or advanced students may be asked to write a paragraph that explains the theme of a selection. Heterogeneous groups may be asked to choose a photograph or illustration to accompany a selection and justify their choice. Kinesthetic learners may be asked to create diorama models. Advanced students may also be able to compose a longer and more detailed comparison/contrast essay than other students may.
An example of differentiated instruction is as follows. More Advanced Students: Write a community profile of the Harlem Renaissance described in one of the selections. Less Advanced Students: Use pictures that represent key elements of the community to construct a collage of the scenes in one of the selections. Kinesthetic Learners: Use clay or papier-mache to create a Harlem Renaissance scene.
Finally, some students may also have less advanced technological skills than others and will therefore need additional instruction in order to conduct research on the Internet.
I Hear America Singing (Langston Hughes)
Masterpiece Theater: Langston Hughes Biography
Literature & Life
NCTE and IRA
Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning
|Provided in partnership with NAfME|
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