Teaching American History Project Lesson
Author: Jane Wolf
Unit title: America: The Years Between the Wars
Lesson title: Selling the Harlem Renaissance
Subject: American History
Length of Lesson:
Two block periods of 105 minutes
Introduction: This unit is encouraging students to examine the popular culture,
media, and social history of the time period by examining documents from the
time period, and evaluating the effect that events and people have on the social
history of The United States. This lesson will focus on the Harlem Renaissance.
The word Renaissance means literally rebirth. It brings to mid a rebirth and focus
on art, music, and culture. It also brings to mind the idea of individual
achievement, or what people as individuals have accomplished rather than
society at large. This lesson will be used in an 11th grade American History
class. Therefore, most students will have learned about the Renaissance
starting in the fourteenth century previously and will have a context for what the
word Renaissance means.
Between 1920 and 1930, an unprecedented outburst of creative activity among
African-Americans took place in all areas of artistic achievement. This artistic
movement has become known as the Harlem Renaissance. The Harlem
Renaissance really exalted the artistic achievements of African- Americans and
shows us a significant cultural boon not only for African-Americans, but for all
Americans. One of the factors contributing to the rise of the Harlem Renaissance
was the great migration of African-Americans to northern cities between 1919
and 1926. Just as in the fourteenth century, urbanism is a key concept in the
idea of a Renaissance. People collaborating and experiencing the art of others
fuels their own creativity.
The main component of this lesson will be a group activity in which students will
examine primary sources on the internet and gather information which they will
synthesize and use to create a poster or brochure that includes different art
forms of the Harlem Renaissance. The students will then briefly share their
creation with the rest of the class, so that all the students can benefit from their
research and ideas.
1. Student will be able to evaluate African-American art forms from the
2. Student will be able to define Harlem Renaissance
3. Student will be able to explain the growth of arts during the Harlem
4. Student will be able to identify important people in the movement
5. Student will be able to establish a visual account of the Harlem
Nevada State Standards:
History Standard 2.0: History Skills: Students will use social studies
vocabulary and concepts to engage in inquiry, in research, in analysis, and in
Benchmark 2.8.2 Evaluate sources of historical information based on: bias,
credibility, cultural context, reliability
History Standard 8.0: The Twentieth Century, a Changing World: 1920 to
1945: Students understand the importance and effect of political, economic,
technological, and social changes in the world from 1920 to 1945.
Benchmark 8.12.2 Analyze the effects on society of new technologies of this
era including communication, transportation and manufacturing.
Benchmark 8.12.3 Examine social tensions in the postwar era, including:
Radical politics, immigration restrictions, and racism
Benchmark 8.12.4 Analyze how cultural developments in the arts, education,
media, and leisure activities reflected and changed United States Society.
In Class Student Activities:
1. Introduction: 20 minutes At the beginning of class, students will write down
everything that they remember about the Italian Renaissance from their World
History Class. Most will at least remember names like Michelangelo and
Leonardo DaVinci. Teacher will ask: What does the word Renaissance mean?
Who were major people of the Renaissance? What factors contributed to the
Italian Renaissance? (make sure that urbanization is stressed) After briefly
discussing the Italian Renaissance, connect it to the Harlem Renaissance. Both
are about individual achievement and a resurgence of art and culture.
2. Teacher will tell students that they will be going to the media center to learn
about the people and art of the Harlem Renaissance. They will be doing this in a
3. Take ten minutes to pass out assignment and divide the class into groups.
Divide them into groups of four by having them number off. Each student in the
group of four will investigate a different concept of the Harlem Renaissance. In
each group of four, each student must pick one of the following areas to
investigate: art, music , literature and poetry, and general history of the
movement. Tell each group to appoint a secretary to write down the names of
the people in their group and which category they will be in responsible for.
4. Teacher will pass out the following assignment:
You and your group members are going to do an informational ad about the
Harlem Renaissance. You must create a visual (poster or brochure) for your ad
campaign. Each of you must create the section of your visual that reflects the
category that you have researched. Please use the following websites to gather
your information and visuals for you ad:
if your category is art:
if your category is poetry and literature:
if your category is music:
if your category is history:
You will have forty minutes in the media center to complete your research. If you
finish early, start thinking about how you will compose your visual.
5. Return to the classroom. Students will have the rest of the period to design
their visuals. They will be expected to return to class next time with all the
materials that they need to complete their visual. Teacher will visit each group
to monitor their progress and assess their productivity. -15 minutes
1. Students will meet in their groups and be given about forty minutes to
complete their poster or brochure. If they finish early, they will begin practicing
their presentation of their ad to the class.
2. Student groups will present their ad campaigns to the class. 40 minutes
3. Conclusion: The class will be concluded with a discussion of the Harlem
Renaissance. Teacher will ask “Who were some of the main people of the
Harlem Renaissance? Had you heard of them before this ad campaign? How
do you think that they compare to the people of the Italian Renaissance? Which
category do you think has had the greatest impact on history?” 20 minutes
Extended Enrichment Activities:
1. Watch Ken Burns “Jazz in America” video on the Harlem Renaissance. Have
students write 30 interesting facts that they would like to discuss at the end of the
2. Students can do further research on a famous person of the Harlem
3. Teacher could facilitate a Harlem Renaissance culture day where you could
have poetry readings, play jazz music, and view African-American art from the
1. Assignment for the media center
2. notes to facilitate discussion periods during the lesson.
3. Any art supplies that are kept in the room to help with visual design
4. old magazines for pictures
Teacher will check the progress made in the media center at the end of day one.
Teacher will ask students to identify some of the important people in their
The visual will be assessed to see how well they have explained and defined
The following websites will be used for this lesson: