Lesson Plan Feature: Identifying the Social and Cultural Context of a Period

The Harlem Renaissance is a rich period in American history and one that can inspire students.  Among the many resources from PBS LearningMedia  is the lesson plan Identifying the Social and Cultural Context of a Period: The New Negro and the Harlem Renaissance.   Students in grades 6-8 watch three video segments to identify the context of the period before and during the Harlem Renaissance and then write an essay about changes in African American life and attitudes during this period.

Here’s an overview of the three video segments:

Finding their Voice shows that as African Americans shift to the urban North in an attempt to escape violence and oppression, they create a new voice for themselves during the social, artistic and cultural movement known as the Harlem Renaissance.

The New Negro discusses the life of Arturo Schomburg — historian, writer and collector of artifacts of African culture and history — and talks about some of the important writers and poets of the Harlem Renaissance.

Symbolism in “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” allows students to hear a reading of this poem written by Langston Hughes in 1922 when he was eighteen years old.  One of the first African American writers who wrote about the authentic experiences of his people, Hughes made substantial artistic contributions to the Harlem Renaissance.

The lesson provides handouts for each video segment, among them  a graphic organizer and rubric.

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