Harlem Renaissance Project Ideas

Instructor: Kristen Goode

Kristen has been an educator for 25+ years - as a classroom teacher, a school administrator, and a university instructor. She holds a doctorate in Education Leadership.

The Harlem Renaissance, a movement centered on the creative works of African American artists, took place in 1920s America. Use the projects below to help students understand and identify with everything the Harlem Renaissance was about.

The Harlem Renaissance

The Harlem Renaissance was a fascinating time in our nation's history that should be understood and celebrated by today's learners. After completing a unit or lesson on the Harlem Renaissance, make this event come to life by involving students in projects that engage them in the process of understanding its significance as a part of our history. The projects below, designed for use with middle school and high school students, have been developed for this purpose.

Create Your Own Piece

Materials: computer access for research and writing, supplies as determined by students as they work

  • Begin by asking students to research a list of artists associated with the Harlem Renaissance.
  • Next, have each student select one artist (a musician, a visual artist, or a writer) to focus on.
  • Instruct each student to research their chosen artist and create a short biography about that person.
  • Once they have completed their biography, have each student create their own original piece of work that mimics or reflects the work of the artist they have chosen to work with. For example:
    • If they chose a musician, they will compose a song.
    • If they chose a visual artist, they will paint a picture or create another art piece.
    • If they chose a writer, they will write a poem or short story.
  • After students have completed both their written biography and their original artistic piece, have them share their work with the class by first giving a small speech about their chosen artist then showing their original piece and explaining how it mimics or reflects their chosen artist.

Research a Major Player

Materials: computer access for research and PowerPoint presentation, poster board, markers

  • Put students into three groups (six groups if working with a large class).
  • Assign each group one area of art associated with the Harlem Renaissance (music, visual art, or writing). If working with six groups, there will be two groups for each type of art.
  • Next, have each group research a list of Harlem Renaissance names associated with their assigned area.
  • Each group is to choose one artist associated with the area of art they have been assigned and create a PowerPoint presentation about that person that includes:
    • A brief biography of the person.
    • Examples of their work.
    • Pictures to add interest.
    • How their work fits into the Harlem Renaissance.
  • Once their PowerPoint is complete, have each group design a poster that might have been used to advertise an event for their artist's work (a concert, an art exhibit, or a poetry reading, for example).
  • Finally, have each group share their PowerPoint presentation with the class and explain their poster.

Compare Artists

Materials: computer access for research, large piece of construction paper, markers

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