Great Migration and Harlem Renaissance
Unit Plan: Harlem Renaissance
with an introduction to the "Great Migration" and an emphasis on the theme of "Community" in the art, music, and writings of the Harlem Renaissance

Teacher's Guide

Overview / Materials and Preparation / Instructional Procedure / Evaluation


Overview

Objectives
After completing this unit, students will be able to:


Time Required
Three 75 minute sessions.

Target Level
Advanced high school students in grades 11 and 12, college level, and, with adjustments, adult learners or seminars. A computer lab is a must for this lesson or at least the final day. If computers are only available for one day, most of the other websites could be handed out as hard copies for students to use. Computer access must be available to students for some portion of time outside of class for the final assignment as well (study hall, multiple computers on campus, etc.).

Curriculum Fit
Use in a U.S. History course as a unit between the depressing units on WWI, the Great Depression, and WWII.

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Materials and Preparation

Materials to gather before class:

  1. Copy "written document analysis worksheets" for your class from the National Archives and Records Administration, found at http://www.nara.gov/education/teaching/analysis/write.html. You will need nine sheets per student.
  2. Copy "painting analysis worksheet" (modified from the poster and photograph worksheets from the National Archive and Records Administration). You will need five sheets each for half of the students in class.
  3. Copy "sound recording analysis worksheet" from the National Archives and Records Administration, found at http://www.nara.gov/education/teaching/analysis/sound.html. You will need two sheets each for half of the students in your class.
Preparation:
  1. It would be useful to make sure each of the computers the students use have the latest version of "Real Player." This can be downloaded at Netscape download, found at http://home.netscape.com/computing/download/index.html, and then click on "Smart Update" and follow the instructions.
  2. Students work in a number of small groups throughout this unit and are the class in divided into two groups at one point. When appropriate, it would save time to assign people to these groups before class begins.


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Instructional Procedure

Day 1: Introduction to the Unit
Great Migration
Day 2: Great Migration cont.
Harlem Renaissance
Day 3: Introduction
Art
Music
Wrap-up

Assignment previous to Day 1: Have students read "The South" by Langston Hughes and "The Servant" by Fenton Johnson in The Crisis Reader. Give them two "Written Document Analysis Worksheets," from the National Archives (see Materials above), to fill out.

Day 1:
Introduction to the Unit

Tell students:
For an overview of this lesson, go to the website on the Harlem Renaissance, http://www.nku.edu/~diesmanj/harlem.html. Read the section entitled "What was the Harlem Renaissance?" (5 minutes)

Throughout this unit, we will be focussing on the theme of "community" found in the art, writings, and music of the Harlem Renaissance. Think of this as you do your readings and explore the websites.

Go to the PBS "I'll Make Me a World" website, http://www.pbs.org/immaw/. Click on the link to "Arts Chronology." Then choose to look at it by "Decade." Look at the decades of 1900, 1910, and 1920. Answer these questions:

1. What seem to be the most significant events? Why?
2. What do these events tell you about the African American community in the early 20th century?
3. What questions are created for you by reading this text?
4. What would you like to explore further? (15 minutes)
Now, let's discuss what you have learned. (large group discussion, 10 minutes)

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Great Migration

Before we get into the "meat" of the Harlem Renaissance, we will look at the "Great Migration North" as background for the arts movement in Harlem.

To begin with, we will review "The Servant" by Fenton Johnson (p. 47) in The Crisis Reader. Get into small groups of 3 to 5 (could be assigned groups--see "Preparation" above) and discuss the questions listed on the "Written Document Analysis Worksheet." In your groups, also check out a website on the "Chicago Migration," found at http://lcweb.loc.gov/exhibits/african/afam011.html. How does this website help us to further understand "The Servant"? (15 minutes)

In a large group, let's discuss what we found.

1. What are some of the things the author said that are important?
2. How does the "Chicago Migration" website help us to understand "The Servant"?
2. Why do you think this story was written?
3. What are specific passages from the story that helps you to understand why it was written?
4. What does this story tell us about life in the United States in the early 20th century?
5. What are some questions you have after reading this document?
6. In light of our theme, what do you think this story tells us about the African American community at this time? (20 minutes)
For the next class period, please read Charles W. Chestnutt's "The Doll," any poem by Georgia Douglas Johnson from The Crisis Reader, the biographical information on Johnson, found at http://www.scils.rutgers.edu/~cybers/john.html, and an excerpt from the play "Blue Blood," found at http://www.scils.rutgers.edu/~cybers/blue.html, any poem by Alice Dunbar Nelson from The Crisis Reader, the biographical information on Nelson, found at http://www.scils.rutgers.edu/~cybers/dunbar-nelson.html, and an excerpt from the play "Mine Eyes Have Seen," found at http://www.scils.rutgers.edu/~cybers/mine.html, and one piece of fiction and one play by Marita O. Bonner from The Crisis Reader. Use the "Written Document Analysis Worksheets" (from the National Archives -- see "Materials" above, hand out seven per student) as a guide to important things to look for in the readings and remember to think about the theme of community. I left some time here at the end so that if you do not have computer access between now and the next class period, you can print out these documents now.

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Day 2:

To begin today, we will continue our exploration of the "Great Migration." For more information on the "Great Migration," we will investigate the African American Mosaic website's resources found at http://lcweb.loc.gov/exhibits/african/afam008.html. What does this website and Langston Hughes' poem "The South" (p. 24) (that we read for the last class period) teach us about the Great Migration? What do these teach us about African American communities? Please work in groups of two or three and then write an individual paragraph about what you have learned. I will collect the paragraphs and this will be my attendance record for today. (20 minutes)

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Harlem Renaissance
Now we will shift focus to the actual time period of the Harlem Renaissance. Let's review what we learned through the introduction to this unit. When did the Harlem Renaissance take place? What does Renaissance mean? Do we know any of the major artists of this time period (authors, musicians, painters)? [early 1900s--1900-1950 give or take, re-birth, Langston Hughes etc.] (5 minutes)

To study the Renaissance, we will use both the readings in The Crisis Reader and web resources. The web resources will be particularly useful for the artwork and music of the time period.

Today, we will focus on the literature found in The Crisis Reader.

First, let's talk about "The Doll" by Charles W. Chestnutt.

1. What does this story tell us about the importance of community to African Americans that moved North?
2. What are some of the things the author said that are important?
3. Do any of the websites we looked at so far help us to better understand this story? Which ones? Why?
4. Why do you think this story was written?
5. What are specific passages from the story that helps you to understand why it was written?
6. What does this story tell us about life in the United States in the early 20th century?
7. What are some questions you have after reading this document? (15 minutes)
Okay, now we will divide into groups of three to five (could be previously assigned groups -- see "Preparation" above) to discuss the poetry, fiction, and plays we read. Answer these questions in your group: (Group 1, answer questions 1 and 2, Group 2, answer questions 3 and 4, Group 3 and 4, answer questions 5, 6, 7)
1. What are some of the themes found in these pieces? Are there common themes among them?
2. Are there significant historical events discussed in any of these stories? What are they?
3. What do these pieces of work tell us about life for African Americans in the early 20th century?
4. What do these stories tell us about "community"?
5. Why do you think this story was written?
6. What questions are created for you by reading this text?
7. What would you like to explore further? (15 minutes)
Now, let's move back to the big circle. Each group, tell us what conclusions you came to. (20 minutes)

Tomorrow, we will continue our study of the Harlem Renaissance focussing on art and music through electronic research.

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Day 3

Our background resource for today will be a website called "North by South: Charleston to Harlem, the Great Migrations" found at http://topaz.kenyon.edu/projects/neh/intro/intro.htm. Here we will learn more about the effect the Great Migration had on the art and music that developed during the Harlem Renaissance. Half of the class will focus on art and the other half will focus on music (see "Preparation" above). Once you have been assigned to a subject, jump to the instructions for that section.

Art Music





Art

Begin your study by going to the web page about migration and the arts at http://topaz.kenyon.edu/projects/neh/art/pages/transition1.htm. Read the information there and then link to the sections on art in Charleston and in Harlem found at the bottom of the page. Remember our focus has been on "community" so look for information about that. Write a couple paragraphs about the information you found here and the important events and/or themes that are discussed. (20 minutes)

For the next section, we will evaluate the artwork from the Harlem Renaissance. Look at two to three paintings by two different artists. We are looking for themes that were discussed in the "North by South" website. In order to see this artwork, go to the Smithsonian American Art Museum website at http://nmaa-ryder.si.edu/collections/index.html. Click on "Browse the Collection." Scroll down to "Browse the digitized works by artist." You can choose from these artists:
William H. Johnson, Jacob Lawrence, and Henry O. Tanner. Enter the artist's name and search. Enter only the last name if you have problems finding the artwork. Another artist's work you can evaluate is Los Mailou Jones paintings found at a "gallery" within a Harlem Renaissance website found at http://www.nku.edu/~diesmanj/jones.html. Use the "Painting Analysis Worksheet" (see "Materials" above, give five sheets to each student) to evaluate this artwork. (15 minutes)

Now, meet in groups of three to five to discuss what you looked at. Prepare to inform the rest of the class about what you have learned. Prepare to tell us what you have learned about community through the artwork and the website "North by South." What are some of the other major themes you encountered? Which pieces did you particularly like? What are the subjects of the artwork you looked at? Do you have any questions that were not answered? (10 minutes)

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Music

Begin your study by going to the web page about migration and music at http://topaz.kenyon.edu/projects/neh/music/transition/charleston-harlemtrans.htm. Read the information there and then link to the sections on music in Charleston and Harlem found at the bottom of the page. Remember our focus has been on "community" so look for information about that. Write a couple paragraphs about the information you found here and the important events and/or themes that are discussed. (15 minutes)

Next, we will look at the musical work of various artists. We will begin by looking at the text of the "African American National Anthem" called Lift Every Voice and Sing. It was written by James Weldon Johnson and put to music by his brother. What message does this song give? Are there themes here that we have already discussed? What are they? We don't have time now, but you can download a soundbite of the song at http://jefferson.village.virginia.edu/~saf5g/aas405d/aboutnna.html.

Next, go to "Red Hot Musicians," found at http://www.redhotjazz.com/index.htm, to learn more about the musicians that were active during the Harlem Renaissance. Read this introduction. Then you can learn more about one musician at http://www.redhotjazz.com/musicians.html. Choose from these musicians: Fletcher Henderson, Ethel Waters, Mamie Smith, Lizzie Miles, and Doc Cooke. Read their biographies and listen to at least one of the recordings online. While listening, keep in mind the questions from the "Sound Recording Analysis Worksheet" (see "Materials" above, give two handouts to each student). (20 minutes)

Now, meet in groups of three to five to discuss what you have learned. Prepare to inform the rest of the class about what you have learned. Prepare to tell us what you have learned about community through the music, biographies, and the website "North by South." What are some of the other major themes you encountered? Which pieces did you particularly like? What are the subjects of the music you looked at or listened for? Do you have any questions that were not answered? (10 minutes)

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Rejoin the Large Group
Each group should give a short summary of what they learned. Where does "community" fit into all of this? What are the major themes and/or events you encountered? Are there any paintings or songs you think we should all check out? (15 minutes)

Now that we have completed our study of the early 1900s, we will review the website we began the unit with. Go to the PBS "I'll Make Me a World" website, http://www.pbs.org/immaw/. Click on the link to "Arts Chronology." Then choose to look at it by "Decade." Look at the decades of 1900, 1910, and 1920. Answer these questions:

1. What now seems to be the most important events? Why?
2. Do you think they left out any significant events or "actors"? Who or what would you add to make this list more complete?
3. Is there a way they could have included important themes like community or religion?
4. What questions have not been answered for you? (15 minutes)
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Evaluation

Evaluation for this unit takes place through a variety of methods:

  1. synthesis paragraphs that are written in class will demonstrate whether or not students understand the material and if they are taking the assignment seriously
  2. group discussion will demonstrate whether or not individual learning is effective
  3. ideally, a final unit assessment in the form of a hypertext essay will be the main evaluation tool (the description of the assignment is below)


The major project for this unit is:

Unit Three Hypertext Essay: Go to http://www.si.umich.edu/CHICO/Harlem/text/exhibition.html, part of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and pick one of the people listed under "Arts" that also wrote an essay in The Crisis Reader. Read both the online entry and the essay from the text. How does the information from the Schomburg Center's exhibit on the Harlem Renaissance help you to better understand the essay you read in The Crisis Reader? Integrate this information into a hypertext essay in which you discuss a major theme found in The Crisis Reader essay you read. Utilize the many online resources from this unit. This is due one week from today and should be three to five pages. For high school students, this may not be appropriate. A final short writing assessment in class or a final discussion may be more appropriate.

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Student Guide to the Unit


Lesson plan created by Patricia J. Haverstick
Patricia Haverstick's webpage
Background image is Aaron Douglas' "Study for God's Trombones," 1926. Tempera on board, 21 1/2 x 17 1/2", Evans-Tibbs Collection, Washington, D.C.
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