The historical, social, and cultural backdrop for the poetry, writings and music that helped define
the Black American experience was rooted in two major artistic movements:
The Jazz Age and The Harlem Renaissance.
Excerpt from "Teacher" by Langston Hughes
Ideals are like the stars,
Always above our reach.
Humbly I tried to learn,
More humbly did I teach.
The Jazz Age
The Jazz Age (the 1920s through the 1960s) was a period where jazz music and dance styles rapidly gained nationwide popularity in the United States and throughout the world.
The Jazz Age is typically defined as the period when the influence of jazz music was widespread and society was experiencing prosperity, Prohibition and the beginnings of social change.
The Harlem Renaissance
The era known as the Harlem Renaissance produced a plethora of gifted African-American artists, writers and poets, which to this day has not been replicated.
The Harlem neighborhood of New York City in the 1920’s was the magnet for artists and writers whose work went outside the traditional boundaries of their art form.
A group of Black Americans began to express for the first time in widely available material, a collective view of African American culture,
resonating in the experience of being a Black man or woman in America.
"Dream of Freedom"
What did you Hear? What did you See?
‘Dream of Freedom’ by Langston Hughes
‘A Love Supreme’ by John Coltrane
April Brown, Co-director, Langston Hughes Community Poetry Reading Committee
Have students learn more about Langston Hughes as poet and his poetry as well as exchange that developing knowledge with a professional performer/poet.
Students improve their analytical skills through reading and interpreting a variety of poems, specific to the poet Langston Hughes
Students learn about literary history and contemporary life relevant to the African-American experience and the Harlem Renaissance.
Students will be motivated to write their own poems and share with others.
Middle/High School Grade Bands
Have students learn more about Langston Hughes as a poet and his poetry
Understand that poets play with language and choose words not only for their meaning, but also for their sounds and rhythm
Recognize that poetry requires a careful, deliberate use of language
Examine how rhythm and sound help a poet convey emotion and mood that support the meaning of a poem
High School Grade Bands
Exchange their developing knowledge with a professional performer/poet
Use the "question the author" strategy when reading poems to help understand the author's meaning, language, and stylistic choices
Identify sound devices (e.g., assonance, consonance, alliteration, onomatopoeia) in poetry and attempt to incorporate them into their own writing
Learning Standards Addressed
National Core Arts Standards: Anchor Standards
Responding - Understanding and evaluating how the arts convey meaning
#7 - Perceive and analyze artistic work
Remote or online
Students watch recitation and have Zoom call with performer
Students watch recitation and create own video
Students perform their own online research on Langston Hughes and present one website, article, or archive to the class
Students fill out a digital survey (i.e. “how did listening to this piece make you feel?” and performer or instructor presents survey results for discussion
Students read poem together, each reading one line at a time in rotation
Face to Face
In an outdoor space, student interviews the Poet - (role play) using specific inquiry prompts (Example - Interview the performer asking questions like -“Why did you choose this poem?” “What does it mean to you?” “How did you feel when reciting the poem?” )
Each student creates a poem utilizing selected vocabulary words examined, defined and discussed during classroom time. (Example - Choose an unfamiliar word/words in the poem; write a definition for the word; look up the word in the dictionary; compare the definitions. Use the word or words to write your own poem.)