The Harlem Renaissance

The Harlem Renaissance


The Harlem Renaissance

Choose one of the following individual projects. While students are welcome to assist one another, each student is responsible for completing his/her own project. Any changes to the assignments must be discussed and approved in advance. Once a student decides, researches, and begins a project, he/she will not be allowed to change at the last minute.

Due Dates:

  • Thursday, February23: Parts I, II, and IV
  • Friday, March 2: Parts III and V

Late projects will be reduced by two letter grades.

You must complete all parts of this project. You will have some time to work on this project during class, but you will need to complete most of it outside of class.

PART I: Performance product –(100 pts.)

Using credible sources, research the contributions one of the following writers, artists, or intellectuals made to the Harlem Renaissance.

All presentations must include:

  • Basic biographical information (for instance, dates of birth and death, education, when he/she came to Harlem and why)
  • His/Her most important achievements
  • How this person contributed to the Harlem Renaissance
  • Why these contributions are significant
  • In response to this artist/thinker, you will create a poem, song, piece of visual art, video, dance, or story and perform/play it for the class.

Poets: Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Sterling Brown, James Weldon Johnson, and Jean Toomer

  • Read and annotate at least five of this writer’s poems.
  • Choose at least one poem to memorize and recite for the class.
  • Discuss if and how this poem is representative of the poet’s tone, theme, subject matter, imagery, rhyme scheme, meter, and/or form.

Writers of Fiction: Jean Toomer, Rudolph Fisher, Jessie Redmon Fauset, Wallace Thurman, and Nella Larsen

  • Read and annotate at least one short story or novel chapter by this author.
  • Choose a page of his/her writing, and bring it to life for the class by reading or acting it out.
  • Discuss if and how this story or chapter is characteristic of the writer’s work in terms of tone, theme, subject, conflict, setting, character, plot, and/or point of view.

Intellectuals, Historians, Critics, Business People: W.E.B. DuBois, Alain Locke, Charles S. Johnson, Arthur Schomburg, and Henry Pace and Black Swan Records

  • Read and annotate at least one essay by this intellectual, historian, or critic.
  • Discuss the ideas expressed in this essay and how they are representative of this intellectual, historian, or critic’s work.
  • Also discuss whether and how these ideas conflict with any other major thinker of the Harlem Renaissance.

Visual Artists: Aaron Douglas; Archibald J. Motley, Jr.; James VanDerZee; Jacob Lawrence; and Augusta Savage

  • View and describe at least five paintings, photographs, or sculptures by this artist.
  • Present one painting, photograph, or sculpture to the class.
  • Discuss if and how this piece of art is characteristic of the artist’s work in terms of subject, medium, style, and/or point of view.

Singers: Bessie Smith and Ethel Waters

  • Listen to at least five songs by this performer.
  • Choose one song to sing for the class.
  • Discuss if and how this song is characteristic of the performer’s work in terms of subject matter, style, and/or kind of musical accompaniment. Also, discuss this performer’s typical audience.

Literary Relationship between Alice Walker and Zora Neale Hurston

  • Read Alice Walker’s essays “Saving the Life That Is Your Own: The Importance of Models in the Artist’s Life,” “Zora Neale Hurston: A Partisan View and a Cautionary Tale,” and “Looking for Zora.”
  • Also read Alice Walker’s poem “Each One, Pull One.”
  • Discuss the impact Zora Neale Hurston’s work had on Alice Walker, what Alice Walker did in response, and how Alice Walker’s actions affected Hurston’s reputation.

PART II: Visual Product–(100 pts.)

To present your work at the African American History Celebration on Wednesday, February 29, you will need to visually represent your work on a tri-panel display board. Photographs, bold-lettering, artifacts, and anything else that will enhance your presentation should be included.

Before presenting it at the celebration, you must proofread and spellcheck your display board so that it is of professional and publishable quality.

PART III: Written reflection –(50 pts.)

This reflection piece may be turned in no later than one period after the performance – March 2. It should be a summary of the main points of your presentation and should include your evaluation of what you’ve learned from your research and presentation. This paper should be 1 to 2 pages in length (12 point Times New Roman, double-spaced, 1-inch margins). It must also include a works cited page.

PART IV: Contribution to class video about voice -- (50 pts.)

Create an audio recording of you reading one of your freewrites/poems related to voice, silence, or the ear you’d like to hear you. Then, inspired byZora Neale Hurston’s use of metaphor, create a series of metaphoric video images to accompany your words.

PART V: An in-class reflection essay about Zora Neale Hurston’s novel Their Eyes Were Watching God (100 pts. possible)

Grading Criteria

Expert - >90% - Work is exemplary, meets all requirements with great attention to detail.

Skilled - >80% - Work is good, meets basic requirements, and shows attention to detail.

Average >70% - Work is average, meets most requirements, shows less detail.

Deficient>60% - Work is below average, shows little serious effort.


  1. Alain Locke
  2. W.E.B. DuBois
  3. Cane by Jean Toomer
  4. Arthur Schomburg
  5. Rudolph Fisher
  6. Langston Hughes
  7. Countee Cullen
  8. Sterling Brown
  9. Jessie Redmon Fauset
  10. Nella Larsen
  11. Bessie Smith
  12. Wallace Thurman
  13. Aaron Douglas
  14. Archibald J. Motley, Jr.
  15. James VanDerZee
  16. Jacob Lawrence
  17. Augusta Savage
  18. Henry Pace and Black Swan Records
  19. Relationship between Alice Walker and Zora Neale Hurston
  20. Ethel Waters
  21. Charles S. Johnson
  22. James Weldon Johnson