Harlem Renaissance Unit

Harlem Renaissance Unit

Duration of Lesson: Approximately 4 (45 Minute) Class Periods

My freshman textbook only has two poems and one magazine article over the Harlem Renaissance. I wanted to make use of the resources I had available in my textbook. Before we start I will show my students a presentation over the Harlem Renaissance that I created several years ago.  I have used it multiple times with my students and they typically really enjoy it.


This presentation is a great way to introduce students to the Harlem Renaissance because it gives them a great overview and also shows them the evolution of African American Literature.

After my students have seen the presentation I will have them write a journal entry about heritage.

Journal: What is your heritage, and how important has it been I shaping your identity? Write a paragraph describing how your heritage has influenced who you are.


“The Tropics in New York” by Claude McKay

I didn’t do a lot of research over Claude McKay but I do know that he was a great poet during the Harlem Renaissance. After my students have read the poem they will have to analyze the poem using the title. They will answer the following question in an online discussion board.  They will be required to comment on at least two of their classmates’ posts.


Consider the title of “The Tropics of New York.” How does it affect your understanding of the poem?

After we have read the Claude McKay poem and answered the question in the discussion board we will move on to the second poem in the text.

“Theme for English B” by Langston Hughes

I have taught this poem multiple times over the years and I think it expresses a great understanding of what it was like to be a black student in a mostly white school. The students will answer another discussion board question over the Langston Hughes poem and respond to at least two of their classmates’ posts.


In your own words, explain the theme of the poem “Theme for English B.” What is the message the poet wants to convey? Support your answer with evidence from the text.

After they have completed the discussion board over the Langston Hughes poem, the students will move on to the final piece in our unit. The final piece we will read will be a magazine article that can also be found in our textbook.

Magazine Article:

“The Harlem Renaissance: A Cultural Explosion”

The students will read the magazine article to help them further understand the time period that the Claude McKay and Langston Hughes poems were written in.

After the students have read the article than they will have to write a paragraph to answer the following question.


What does the article “The Harlem Renaissance: A Cultural Explosion” add to your understanding of the two poems that you read by Claude McKay and Langston Hughes? You will write a brief paragraph explaining how your understanding changed after reading the article.


This last question will be the end of our short look at the Harlem Renaissance.  My students should have an opportunity to further explore this time period when they reach their junior year of high school and start analyzing American Literature.

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