Harlem Renaissance Unit
- Children will learn the history of the Harlem Renaissance through the perspective of a cultural celebration of the arts.
- The children will understand that the Great Migration occurred because of economic and educational reasons.
- The children will explore African-American art, music and literature, understanding its importance on the Harlem Renaissance and its lasting influence on New York City’s culture today.
Introduction – Where is Harlem? What is a Renaissance? What is so special about the Harlem Renaissance?
- Harlem is a Manhattan neighborhood, located just above central park starting at 110th street up to about 150th street…
- Today, the area known as Harlem spans from the Hudson River all the way to the East River.
- Zoom in on Manhattan - distinguish the neighborhood of Harlem from other neighborhoods. Harlem has it’s own special neighborhoods like “Strivers Row”, “Sugar Hill”, “Morningside”
Ask students to identify anything they know about Harlem. Why is Harlem important/special?
- Harlem became the cultural community of African Americans as the Civil War came to an end.
- Southern African Americans migrated north in what was called The “Great Migration” from 1910-1920 (from places like Mississippi, VA, Georgia, Carolinas etc.) to the North (places like New York and Chicago)
So why might African American’s move to the north?
- Up North, there are higher paying jobs, better education opportunities and places where they could form an African American community (Harlem)’
- Starting with the new wave of African Americans who flocked to Harlem from 1917 through the 1920’s, the community helped to renew pride in AA culture and way of life. Between 1920-1925, approximately 2 Million AA moved to the North. The 1920’s marked the era of the Harlem Renaissance bringing the creation of new art, music, and literature in New York City.
- Harlem flourished in the arts. The AA Music, Art, Literature was used for self expression allowing for AA to show that they brought many talents as a community.
- Important figures from the Harlem Renaissance period include Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, James Weldon Johnson, W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, and A’Lelia Walker.
- These leaders of the Harlem Renaissance sought to prove that Black Americans were equally talented and relevant as White Americans, using arts and literature to convey their equality.
- Inward positive reinforcement. Restore confidence to the identity
- African-American writers believed that by writing stories, plays, and poems based on their personal experiences, they could unite black Americans and change people’s attitudes about racism. The goal was to improve AA’s self-image.
- By creating such beautiful art and music, AA Renaissance leaders felt that they could help fight against segregation through their talents
- As a result of the Harlem Renaissance, doors of opportunity were opened to AA: university professors, famous authors, diplomats and worldwide celebrities.
Harlem Renaissance – Words To Know
Lesson # 2 - Art
- 1917 marked the start of new ideas, new people and renewed energy. And at the forefront were the African American Artist, exposing the AA culture to the world.
- An African American literary and art movement in the uptown Manhattan neighborhood of Harlem in the mid- and late-1920s.
- The community developed greatly from post-World War I emigration from the South, to become the economic, political, and cultural center of black America. The writers, painters, and sculptors of the Harlem Renaissance celebrated the cultural traditions of African-Americans.
- Instead of using direct political means, African-American artists, writers, and musicians employed culture to work for goals of civil rights and equality.
- Its lasting legacy is that for the first time (and across racial lines), African-American paintings, writings, and jazz became absorbed into mainstream culture.
Show artists and pictures
- Aaron Douglas (1898-1979) was an early Harlem Renaissance artist whose work best exemplified the AA cultural movement.
- He created a series called the Aspects of Negro Life that tracks the journey of African Americans as they bring their cultural heritage with them to Harlem and Chicago
- In this study for the first panel, a man and woman in Africa dance to the beat of drums as concentric circles of light emphasize the heat and rhythm of their movements. A sculpture floating in a central circle above the dancers' heads suggests the importance of spirits in African culture.
Palmer C. Hayden
- (January 15, 1890 – February 18, 1973) was an American painter who depicted African American life in Hwork became known during the Harlem Renaissance.
- Hayden tended to show African-Americans in comfortable settings, enjoying life, celebrating their community, or invoking their African heritage.
Read “The Great Migration” by Jacob Lawrence (An artist not during the Harlem Renaissance but clearly influenced by it)
· After reading, field for questions from students: What did you learn? How did the images help you understand the history?
Lesson #3 – Jazz/ Music
Harlem Renaissance – Artists & Musicians
· As art was being influenced by the Harlem Renaissance, the “Jazz Age” emerged in 1921. Jazz music originated in the South…in cities and towns along the Mississippi River. The new style of jazz had infectious rhythms that were fast, wild and free. The music of the time celebrated the African American culture by incorporating traditional blues and gospel styles.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zgX5_waK--w (Chuck Webb)
· Many African American played this new style of jazz music in Harlem and eventually, it became fashionable for White Americans to travel uptown to Harlem to hear the new jazz music.
· Harlem Renaissance music celebrated the culture of African American by incorporating traditional African American blues and gospel styles
· Along with the new style of music, new dances emerged and tuxedo clad orchestras performed.
· Introduce Duke Ellington as a prominent musician during the Harlem Renaissance. Read a little bio about Duke Ellington, providing context to his music, then talk about his significant contribution to the Harlem Reniassiance through music. Play “Take the A Train”
· Questions to ask: What did you notice in this video? Why might Duke Ellington tell people to take the A train to Harlem?
· African American men weren’t the only artists celebrated during the Harlem Renaissance. Some African American female singer’s were Billie Holiday & (later on) Ella Fitzgerald.
Lesson #4 Apollo – Field Trip Preview
- One of the great culture centers in Harlem was and still is the Apollo Theater. Can anyone tell me what they know about the Apollo Theater?
- Watch video about the Apollo video while taking notes
Lesson #5: Field Trip to the Apollo Theater (Tour Guide)
Lesson # 6 (Begin Harlem RenaissanceBiography Project)
An Overview – Study a Harlem Renaissance Figure. Choose a Harlem Renaissance figure from the list and do a mini-research project on them
- Student select a figure to study and then read about their figure.
- After they read through the Material, students then read to find out certain information about the figure - including early life, career, achievement and old age.
Lesson #7: Harlem Renaissance Report
- Continue to work on our Harlem Renaissance report
Lesson #8: Harlem Renaissance Report
- Present our Harlem Renaissance Report
Lesson #9: Harlem Renaissance Report
- Continue presenting our Harlem Renaissance Report
Lesson #10: Ending the unit
· The Great Depression hit after the stock market crash on Oct. 24, 1929, when $30 billion disappeared from the stock exchange. The Great Depression brought an end to the Harlem Renaissance.
· During the Great Depression, people were more focused on getting jobs and the arts came to a halt
· The Harlem Renaissance was short lived but had a significant literary influence. As a result, novelists have been inspired to tell their own tales and share their insights into the African American experience. By encouraging African American pride, Harlem Renaissance works made White Americans notice and support the efforts of African Americans while helping African Americans to appreciate their cultural influence.
· Play Louis Armstrong - What a wonderful world to wrap-up.