THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE
Common Core Lessons Taught as a
NEXUS Connects: The Harlem Renaissance
Black creativity, suppressed in America for centuries, percolated and the arts intermingled in the cultural melting pot of Twenties Harlem. Students explore this fusion of African-American literature, art, blues, jazz and black history in The Harlem Renaissance volume of NEXUS. Each chapter-lesson is calibrated to resonate with student interest, stimulate self-exploration, and interlink with the other lessons in this interdisciplinary unit.
The NEXUS Interdisciplinary Approach, ideal for teaching an Interdisciplinary Period, utilizes interactive, classroom-tested teaching strategies and lessons that engage and inspire students of all levels.
WE DO THE RESEARCH FOR YOU, providing all of the backstory you’ll need to teach the literature, art, blues, jazz and black history of and that led up to the Harlem Renaissance.
Chapters are LACED WITH POWERFUL LINKS TO STUDENTS’ LIVES AND DRAMATIC MINI NARRATIVES THAT GRAB AND HOLD STUDENTS’ ATTENTION.
(SEE TEXT SAMPLES BELOW IN GREEN.)
“CURRENT STUDIES are revealing that adolescents undergo major developmental changes in their BRAIN NETWORKS — that is, in how the different regions of their brains “talk” to one another, co-regulate, and coordinate….It is the networks’ interdependence that strengthens the rationale for a whole learner approach to education, and likely explains why, when done well, such an approach is so powerful. – EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP, May 2020
The Educational Leadership article goes on to state that the brain has three interdependent networks, one of which is driven by emotions. When this emotional network is NOT stimulated, which is often the case in academic learning environments with traditional textbooks, the other brain networks do not function as well. “One can think of the kids’ emotional engagement…as fueling motivated thinking, either concrete or abstract, like the outboard motor that both pushes the boat and steers it.” Part of the reason the NEXUS approach is so effective is because it not only connects disciplines, it also connects learning to students’ emotional and experiential brain networks (see The Harlem Renaissance text samples in green below, the Julius Caesar text sample under “Lesson on Shakespeare’s Language and the Writings of Julius Caesar,” Antigone text samples: “Antigone’s Challenge: Democracy or Dictatorship” and “A Recipe for Tragedy: Aristotle and Oedipus Rex” (SEE BELOW), and the Macbeth sample text under “Lesson on Macbeth Themes: Fatal Passion and the War Within.”)
HE COLLEGE BOARD
“All NEXUS volumes emphasize the critical skills and analogical thinking that are crucial for success on the SAT.”
LASSROOM NOTES PLUS, NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English)
“Each [NEXUS] volume…is a hybrid of a well-written interdisciplinary textbook and a lively, attractive magazine….’Songs of the Seventh Son’ is one of many thoughtful chapters in The Harlem Renaissance volume of NEXUS. ”
Aligned with Common Core Standards. For secondary students.
CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE
Harlem Renaissance Lessons Part I – African American Literature
- An exciting Common Core exploration of Harlem Renaissance literature.
- Students examine inspirational poetry influenced by W.E.B Du Bois’ theories.
Figures of Speech Lesson: from Harlem Slang to Rap
n this lesson students learn exciting and entertaining ways to explicate figurative language as they carefully explore Zora Neale Hurston’s Glossary of Harlem Slang, an inherently figurative patois, and her hilarious “Story in Harlem Slang” (Spunk collection). In the second part of the lesson, students interpret some of the most artful lyrics of Grammy Award-winning rapper Coolio.
Harlem Renaissance Short Stories Lesson – Short Stories that Explore the Great Migration
Harlem Renaissance Poetry Lesson 1: Langston Hughes + Poetry = Blues
enned by Pulitzer Prize-winning Poet (1994) Yusef Komunyakaa, this chapter-lesson explores Langston Hughes’s blues and jazz-influenced poetry and the use of tension and humor in his spare verse. Students also examine the jazz rhythms of his poems.
Harlem Renaissance Poetry Lesson 2: Langston Hughes’s Influence on Later Poets
Harlem Renaissance Poetry Lesson 3: Songs of the Seventh Son
tudents explore social theories of W.E.B. Du Bois through poems they inspired by Harlem Renaissance poets Langston Hughes, Helene Johnson, Arna Bontemps and Claude McKay. The chapter-lesson teaches students to interpret complex poetry and connect it to black history as well as their own lives. It also invites students to compare a variety of interpretations of the same topics.
TEXT SAMPLE 1:
“Who are we really? Do we invent our own personalities, or are we shaped by our surroundings? Is the world’s opinion of us a mirror that we groom in front of everyday, adjusting our behavior and appearance until the world seems to smile at us? If so, what happens to people who are treated as second-class citizens, people who are sent to the back of the bus?”
“How much does heritage determine who we are? If heritage is an important part of identity, what happens to a people who have been forcibly uprooted from their homeland and history?…”
TEXT SAMPLE 2:
“You’re ugly!” George yells to a boy walking jauntily down the sidewalk in a flashy new jacket. Does George really think the other boy is ugly? Or is he thinking: “I wish I had a jacket like that”? Or: “This kid thinks he’s cool, I better cut him down.” George could be thinking any number of things. What he probably is NOT thinking is that the other boy is ugly. How often do people really mean what they say? ‘Speech was given to man to enable him to conceal his thoughts,’ wrote French writer Stendhal 150 years ago. He was being ironic. Speech enables people to reveal what’s in their minds. But Stendhal implies that more often people use language to hide their thoughts. Is he right?
“In the poem Liars, Langston Hughes builds on this idea…”
Black Theater Lesson
his lesson explores Harlem Renaissance theater, focusing on the pivotal role of 20s’ and 30s’ plays and musicals, from Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle’s era-defining hit Shuffle Along to Langston Hughes’s hilarious early comedies like Little Ham and his protest plays like Mulatto.
Harlem Renaissance Lessons Part II – Black History
Harlem Renaissance History Lesson: The Great Migration
he historical backbone of this volume, this multi-pronged lesson covers the events that paved the way for the Harlem Renaissance, from Reconstruction through W.W.I and its aftermath. Powerfully written with a narrative introduction, the chapter probes the politics of prejudice.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.1, RH.2, .RH.3, RH.6, RH.8, and RH.9 (for 9-10 and 11-12).his chapter aligns with Common Core Standards
“n exuberant three-page overview whose atmospheric approach does not fail to acknowledge that during that period, as Langston Hughes put it, “the Negro was in vogue.” While recognizing that the “marketability” of African American culture was driven by white tourists, the introduction still gives a good accounting of the achievements made possible by the “vogue” and includes recollections of Harlem life from Hughes, Dorothy West, and others.” – THE COLLEGE BOARD
arlem Renaissance arts showcased black history and the contemporary black experience for a broad national audience for the first time in American history.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.1, RH.2, and RH.3 (for 9-10 and 11-12).his lesson meets Common Core Standards
Harlem Renaissance Lessons Part III – Black Music
- Harlem Renaissance music and black music from the Delta to the Chicago Blues.
- Students to learn to recognize and distinguish the various musical voices of the period.
Harlem Renaissance Music Lesson 1: The Roots of the Blues
A Brief History of the Blues” at the All About Jazz website.)his chapter-lesson and the accompanying “Blues Supplement” and Harlem Renaissance lesson plans teach students the history and contemporary relevance of the blues. They also explore the structure of the blues and its offspring rock and roll and learn to write their own blues compositions and lyrics, modeled on the blues poetry of Langston Hughes. (For descriptions of the various types of blues see “
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1, R.2, R.6 and R.8. For more on the blues see Race Records and Selling Black Music below.his lesson satisfies Common Core Anchor Reading Standards:
Harlem Renaissance Music Lesson 2: Jelly Roll Morton & Jazz Patterns
s “rap was borne at the block parties of the Bronx in the late seventies and early eighties, jazz was nurtured and perfected at rent parties in the twenties – not only in Harlem, but in Chicago and St. Louis.” (“When Harlem Was Heaven,” The Harlem Renaissance, NEXUS.)
Harlem Renaissance Music Lesson 3: Race Records and Selling Black Music
his lesson chronicles the evolution of the blues from its birth in the Mississippi Delta through the Classic Blues in Harlem to the Chicago Blues as well as the challenges and prejudice black musicians faced in the recording industry.
Harlem Renaissance Lessons Part IV – African-American Art
Harlem Renaissance Art Lesson: The Metaphorical and Narrative Murals and Paintings of Aaron Douglas
The Judgment Day at the National Gallery of Art and Let My People Go at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. For more on reading visual metaphors see the lessons: “Poetry in Botticelli’s Primavera” in Romeo and Juliet and the Renaissance and “Greek Art, Visual Storytelling” in Antigone and the Greek World.tudents learn to “read” the visual metaphors and contrasts of the leading painter of the Harlem Renaissance Aaron Douglas and to interpret his visual narratives of black history. As an adjunct lesson, we encourage students to compare and contrast the image on the left of this page, The Creation, with
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL7 (for 9-10 and 11-12) and National Core Art Standards, Program 8, Anchor Standards 1, 5, 7, 8, 10 and 11 (for 9-10 and 11-12).his exciting chapter-lesson satisfies Common Core Standard
Harlem Renaissance Lesson Plans and Interdisciplinary Guidelines
NEXUS SUPPLEMENTS can be accessed under the SUPPLEMENTS menu. NOTE: NEXUS supplements and booklets are protected by U.S. Copyright and cannot be photocopied, photographed, or downloaded.
Harlem Renaissance Writing Projects
- Harlem Renaissance activities
Harlem Renaissance project ideas
Additional Blues Resources for Students (Coming Soon)
Abridged Glossary of Harlem Slang, by Zora Neale Hurston (Coming Soon)
GUIDELINES: The NEXUS guidelines suggest interdisciplinary activities and student-friendly ancillary readings.
NEXUS is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in Cleveland, OH. Our mission is to provide schools with outstanding interdisciplinary resources that inspire students to THINK, LINK and IMAGINE
A portion of our proceeds is donated annually to UNICEF’S Audrey Hepburn All Children in School Fund.