Harlem Renaissance Lesson Plan

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Teach your students about the Harlem Renaissance with this lesson. Watch a vibrant video that gives historical background and outlines key figures. Follow up with an engaging activity that deepens concepts.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • define key terms
  • explain the impact of the Harlem Renaissance
  • recognize and discuss key historical figures of the Harlem Renaissance


  • 1 hour

Key Vocabulary

  • Harlem Renaissance
  • Disenfranchised
  • Migration
  • Stereotypes
  • Jim Crow laws


  • Blank paper template of a social media page, such as Facebook

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.3

Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.4

Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social science.


  • Begin by asking students to think of a time they had to stay inside for a long period of time, such as for weather or health reasons. Ask them to do a flash writing of how that made them feel and what it felt like to finally get outside and moving. You may also use the analogy of hunger or another discomfort your students might relate to.
  • Share answers and discuss the feeling of release. Did feelings wear off eventually? How does it feel to remember that time?
  • Tell students they will be learning about an important historical time called the Harlem Renaissance. Discuss the meaning of the word 'renaissance.' Hypothesize about the use of this word during this time period.
  • Play our Study.com video lesson The Harlem Renaissance: Novels & Poetry from the Jazz Age. Allow students to take notes or print transcripts for students to highlight as the lesson plays.
  • Discuss:
    • There were African-American artists before the Harlem Renaissance. What made this time unique?
    • What impact did the Harlem Renaissance have on America?
    • How did the Jim Crow laws limit African Americans? How did this influence the Harlem Renaissance?
    • How did living closely together in Harlem impact African Americans?
    • Why was jazz considered America's first great art form?
    • How did jazz music influence and enhance Americans during this time period?
  • Discuss artists during this time period.
  • Return to the term 'renaissance.' Discuss why this term was used to describe the era.


  • Students will create a social media page for a chosen artist from the Harlem Renaissance. Have books, articles, and other media available and allow students to use technology for research.
  • Hand out the paper templates that were created before class. Have students choose an artist to research and fill in the social media page for that person.
  • Circulate the room as students work to support and encourage students.
  • Share when finished and discuss the artist. Encourage students to support and evaluate one another. Display in classroom.
  • Tip: Play music from music or use an interactive smart board to play video of this era as students work.


  • The heart of the Harlem Renaissance was the freedom African Americans felt to express themselves. Have students create original poems, songs, or music that mimics this theme.
  • Collect art, poems, literature, and music from this era and host a Harlem Renaissance Day. Ask students to dress up, play music, and take a gallery art walk. Bring in jazz instruments for students to try, if possible.
  • Coordinate with the music and art teacher for cross-curricular experiences.

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