the Odds: The Trials and Tribulations of the Harlem Renaissance
Boise State University
Time Allotment: Four
to five 45-minute class periods, or three to four hour-long classes
Subject Matter: Art
1920 until about 1930 an outburst of creative activity among African-Americans
occurred in all fields of art. Beginning as a series of literary discussions
in the lower Manhattan and upper Manhattan (Harlem) sections of New York
City, this African-American cultural movement became known as "The New
Negro Movement" and later as the Harlem Renaissance. More than a literary
movement and more than a social revolt against racism, the Harlem Renaissance
exalted the unique culture of African-Americans and redefined African-American
expression. African-Americans were encouraged to celebrate their heritage
and to become "The New Negro," a term coined in 1925 by sociologist and
critic Alain Leroy Locke.
the activities in this lesson effectively, students will become familiar
with a relatively unknown artistic American movement in the 1920's entitled
"The Harlem Renaissance." Within this movement, students will identify
the difficulties of surviving not only as an artist, but enduring issues
of race and discrimination. After examining video clips and participating
in a web quest, student will present information gathered and discuss
issues pertaining to African American art through a power point presentation
as well as an oral presentation.
Students will be able to:
- Explain the cause of the rising of African
American artists in Harlem
- Identify at least three primary contributors
to the artistic movement
- Describe the obstacles faced by struggling
African American artists
- Understand and discuss the significance of
the Harman Foundation
National Fine Art Education Standards
- For students to have an informed acquaintance
with exemplary works of art from a variety of cultures and historical
periods, and a basic understanding of historical development in the
arts disciplines, across the arts as a whole, and within cultures.
- Students should be able to relate various types
of arts knowledge and skills within and across the arts disciplines.
This includes mixing and matching competencies and understandings in
art-making, history and culture, and analysis in any arts-related project.
- Students should be able to develop and present
basic analyses of works of art from structural, historical, and cultural
perspectives, and from combinations of those perspectives. This includes
the ability to understand and evaluate work in the various arts disciplines.
Idaho State Fine Art Education Standards
- Students will have knowledge of cultural, ethnic
and historical aspects to the fine arts in a variety of forms, contexts
- Students will make significant connections
between visual arts and other disciplines.
- Students will learn about and be able to reflect
upon, interpret, analyze, and critically assess the characteristics,
qualities, processes, and merits of their work and the work of others
in the visual arts.
Against The Odds:The Harlem Renaissance Videocassette Dist. By PBS Home
Prep For Teachers
Prior to teaching this lesson, overview and bookmark
the above listed websites and read the information about the Harlem Renaissance.
Be prepared to give a brief introductory lecture on the Harlem Renaissance
before activities begin.
- Provide a copy of "Let
America be America Again" for introductory activity for each student.
- Make copies of Harlem
Renaissance Web Quest for each student
- Have poster board, presentation software available
and other necessary materials for student presentation at the end of
Provide a brief overview of the Harlem Renaissance
by discussing the impact WWI had on the pride of black Harlem. Review
information listed in overview of this lesson and convey to students.
Distribute the poem, "Let
America be America Again" by Langston Hughes. Have students take turns
reading individual stanzas out loud to the classroom.
After students have read the poem, discuss the meaning. Ask questions
such as, "What was your reaction to this poem?" " What lines stood out,
or what do you think he meant?" "What emotion did this poem stir up? Anger?
Resentment? Redemption? Finally ask students "How do you think art was
represented in this era?"
Go to media lab and have students log on to the website http://www.nku.edu/~diesmanj/harlem_intro.html
and click on the artwork of Louis Marilou Jones and toggle through of
her artwork. Then explore the other two artists William H. Johnson and
Palmer Hayden. Ask students about the initial reaction to the art displayed
on the website. Ask, "Were you surprised to see this art as something
more personal and less reactionary?" Discuss.
Assist students in realizing that, even though bitter oppression took
place, a great deal of the art was represented mostly as soft, sensual
and took into account the beauty of the human spirit. Write on the board
this quote by Marrianne Williams, "Our internal state determines our experience
of our lives; our experiences do not determine our internal state" and
discuss correlation between art viewed and the society at the time.
After your students have finished viewing
and discussing the Harlem Renaissance web site, insert the video, "Against
the Odds: The Artists of the Harlem Renaissance" into your VCR. START
the tape (7595). PLAY until 7881 where the color images from the
Harman Institute Gallery are displayed. After stopping the tape; create
a discussion with students regarding the difference between the propagandistic
film clip of the Art gallery opening and what the reality of the situation
PLAY the video until 8597 or the point of discussion with the art
historian. STOP at 8597. Discuss the definitions of complex, subtle,
human and compare with the definitions of contentment and struggle, as
discussed in this section of the video.
STOP the video at approximately 9666 and
discuss the aspect of the Parisian influence beyond just the study of
art for African Americans. (Optional: FAST FORWARD to 9718)
PLAY video until 0214. STOP video at this point where they
discuss how African Americans have found their won voice. Repeat or write
on the board the ending few lines of the poem recited in this portion
of the video: "We stand on top of the mountain, free within ourselves,"
and discuss student's reaction to this statement. Ask students about the
struggle for African Americans to find the middle ground. The combination
of discussion and viewing the Harlem Renaissance video will take approximately
45 minutes to one hour at this time.
Explain to the class that they are about
to explore the Harlem Renaissance. Ask students whether they would like
to be a poet, an artist, or an activist. Divide class into the three groups
evenly. Distribute Web quest assignment and
go over in detail, focusing on the scoring rubric. Tell students they
will be graded primarily on their presentation. Allow one to two days
for students to gather the information necessary to formulate a presentation
at the end of the unit. Explain to students that each group has approximately
ten to fifteen minutes to present their information.
Present a written journal accounting the events
that took place in the Harlem Renaissance
Write a poem similar to the ones listed on
the Web site http://www.poets.org/poems/poems.cfm?prmID=1473
Compare and contrast the Harlem
Renaissance to the post World War II African American situation.
Describe the events that lead up to the artistic
and cultural movement in Harlem in the 1920's.
- Visit your local history museum and investigate
the African American situation of the west. What impact did they have
out west? What were their primary occupations? Was segregation prevalent?
- Access the public library in your local area
and conduct further research on African American poetry and art. Compare
and contrast later 20th century African American art to that of the
- Visit your local art gallery and investigate
artistic movements that are currently on display. What comparisons can
you make? What about other cultural art? What similarities are there?
What is different?
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