Category 1: Art of the Harlem Renaissance
- During the time period, the social movement we now call the Harlem Renaissance was called the "New Negro Movement" why do you think this name was recognized as appropriate?
- Consider the changes in America between the end of the Civil War and the start of WW II, why is it that many African-Americans were actively trying to define what it meant to be both "African" and "American"?
- This website has several Harlem Renaissance experts that try to answer the question "The art of the Harlem Renaissance seems overwhelmingly optimistic, despite the fact that Harlem was already in a state of economic decline and many African-American performers were not embraced by mainstream America. Why?" Read the answers the experts provide and describe in your own words why you think Harlem Renaissance Art was so often optimistic rather than pessimistic.
-Imagine yourself as an African-American living in Harlem during this era. Do you think you would be excited and optimistic despite the many challenges you would experience?
- This website includes images of all 60 panel paintings that Jacob Lawrence did to document the Great Migration. Why do you think Lawrence chose this subject for his big project?
- What themes and trends do you notice that reoccur throughout the paintings?
- Choose one panel painting, describe how the painting relates to specific things that you know about American History.
- The two above websites show and describe two different paintings done by the same artist, Archibald J. Motley Jr, about 15 years apart. Why do you think the subject matter and style of his art changed so much?
- Which of the two paintings do you like the most, why?
- Do you think art today is reflective of people's experiences, if so, how? Please give specific examples.
Category 2: Literature of the Harlem Renaissance
--What were some significant characteristics of the literary movement during the Harlem Renaissance, and how are they reflective of the culture of the period?
--Describe the transformation from the "Old Negro" to the "New Negro". Which significant works/writers during the Harlem Renaissance would you say influenced or contributed to this transformation?
-- How was Hughes poetry different than any other poetry of the time? Read the excerpt of the poem The Weary Blues. How is this poem Jazz poetry?
-- Why did Hughes feel like he slept in "ten thousand beds?" Do you think his childhood effected his poetry?
--How do you think Hughes' background - his education, his extensive travels, etc - influenced his works, and their often political nature?
-- How did Hurston's academic background influence her literary works, and why is that important in terms of the Harlem Renaissance?
-- Who were the "Talented Tenth?" What were they trying to do? What did their campaign do?
-- What was the 'representative' African American? What did Hughes' "The Negro and the Racial Mountain" argue about these writings?
Category 3: Music of the Harlem Renaissance
-- Where was Jazz first documented? What is it a fusion of?
-- Listen to Fat Waller's Minor Drag. What do you think of Jazz? Have you ever listened to Jazz before? Why do you think it became so popular so quickly?
-- Who did the "Harlem Stride Style" of piano helped bridge? Why were these groups separating before they were bridged together with this music?
-- What were some venues that were perfect to play Jazz at?
-- What was the first recorded Blues song? By who? Who else was a popular Jazz singer?
-- What were "Race Record" labels? What did they do?
-- What helped to popularize Jazz? Why do you think this increased the popularity of Jazz?
-- Who was Duke Ellington? What was his contribution to the Harlem Renaissance?
Category 4 Dance of the Harlem Renaissance
--What were "rent parties" and what role did they play in the lives of people living in Harlem during this period? How did they define the culture of Harlem and of the Harlem Renaissance?
--What were some popular social dances during the Harlem Renaissance? In what ways do these dances reflect the culture of the Harlem Renaissance?
--Most styles of music and dance durin the Harlem Renaissance was highly improvisational. Why do you think that is?
--Why was the Lindy Hop so popular? How were dances like this used as a form of cultural and personal expression?
--Can you think of popular dances today that are used as forms of expression?
--What exactly was "Jazz dance" and what kinds of dance forms did it influence?
--What remnants of Jazz dance can you think of today? How do you think the culture of African-American dance forms has evolved into the dance forms we know today?
--In what ways was the African-American dance culture of the Harlem Renaissance a response to the negative history of minstrelsy?
--Who were some of the "Pioneers" of African-American dance during the Harlem Renaissance? How did their work during this period help to recreate the public image of African-American culture?