Harlem Renaissance Jazz

Harlem Renaissance Jazz

Jazz is a musical form that has many influences: folk tunes, African, Carribean, French, and classical. Read this overview: URL: http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/harlem//RogJazzF.html

Excerpt: “The origin of the present jazz craze is interesting. More cities claim its birthplace than claimed Homer dead. New Orleans, San Francisco, Memphis, Chicago, all assert the honor is theirs. Jazz, as it is today, seems to have come into being this way, however: W. C. Handy, a Negro, having digested the airs of the itinerant musicians referred to, evolved the first classic, the Memphis Blues. Then came Jasbo Brown, a reckless musician of a Negro cabaret in Chicago, who played this and other blues, blowing his own extravagant moods and risqué interpretations into them, while hilarious with gin. To give further meanings to his veiled allusions he would make the trombone “talk” by putting a derby hat and later a tin can at its mouth. The delighted patrons would shout, “More, Jasbo. More, Jas, more.” And so the name originated.”(from Jazz at Home by J.A. Rogers)

Jazz greats from the Roaring Twenties, such as King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, Kid Ory, and Duke Ellington, defined the future of jazz in the United States and abroad. At this website, choose 1 or 2 “Jazz standards from the 1920s.” What instruments do you hear? Describe the beat or tempo? How does the music make you feel? What seems to be the emotion of the music?  Jazz History: The Standards (1920s) URL: http://www.jazzstandards.com/history/history-2.htm

In the comments: Where did jazz originate? In the jazz you listened to what is the mood of the music? What was new and original about this artform?


Harlem Renaissance Poetry & Literature

Langston Hughes is one of the most famous poets in American history. You can read his biography here:

Langston Hughes Biography

Read Langston Hughes’ poem below. What was his message for the reader? How does his poem give us insight into race relations during his time?


URL: http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/83


I, Too, Sing America by Langston Hughes

I, too, sing America.


I am the darker brother.

They send me to eat in the kitchen

When company comes,

But I laugh,

And eat well,

And grow strong.



I’ll be at the table

When company comes.

Nobody’ll dare

Say to me,

“Eat in the kitchen,”




They’ll see how beautiful I am

And be ashamed–


I, too, am America.


Read the biographies of these 3 famous authors from the Harlem Renaissance. What did they have in common? How did they each contribute to American literature?



Zora Neale Hurston



James Weldon Johnson



Claude McKay


Comments: After reading the Langston Hughes poem and the bios of these authors, what was significant about Harlem Renaissance Poetry and Literature? What does their work indicate about race relations at the time? And how does their work reveal a new African American conciousness?

Harlem Renaissance Art

Between 1920-1930 an unprecedented outburst of creative activity among African-Americans occurred in all fields of art. This African-American cultural movement became known as “The New Negro Movement” and later as the Harlem Renaissance. Harlem attracted a prosperous and stylish black middle class from which sprang an extraordinary artistic center. The Harlem Renaissance exalted the unique culture of African-Americans and redefined African-American expression. African-Americans were encouraged to celebrate their heritage and to become “The New Negro,” a term coined in 1925 by sociologist and critic Alain LeRoy Locke. (excerpted from: http://www.eyeconart.net/history/Harlem.htm).

Explore these sites:  The Harlem Renaissance Art: http://www.robinurton.com/history/Harlem.htm; Jacob Lawrence: http://www.whitney.org/jacoblawrence/meet/index.html 


In the comments: choose at least one painting, describe the painting and the manner in which it reflects the main themes of the Harlem Renaissance.

Scandal! Teapot Dome

Read about the Teapot Dome scandal here:

Teapot Dome scandal

Post your comment: Newspapers in the 1920s often had vivid headlines and sensational stories. Using this imageTeapotDome– create your own banner headline about the Teapot Dome Scandal and opening paragraph in which you detail the who, what, when, where and why

Also, write a sentence or two about how this scandal compares to more modern corporate scandals such as Goldman Sachs
Or how it compares to the Enron scandal

Scopes Trial

The Scopes Trial was characterized by religious fundamentalism and a “battle between small town religion and American progress.” You can watch a re-enactment of the famous trial here (need a head set).  This site provides an excellent overview of Darwinism/Evolution to Scopes Trial time line.

Browse the political cartoons about the trial in this gallery from PBS (click on the thumbnail images).

Next, listen to folk music from the time period: The John Scopes Trial. If you have time you can sample other folk songs here: Monkey trial music.

In the comments: Aside from the legal arguments about whether Mr. Scopes broke the law by teaching about evolution (he admitted that he had), what seems to be the main arguments of the supporters and opponents  of the Butler Law banning the teaching of evolution? Use specific historical evidence from the political cartoons and folk music to support your response. Feel free to build on what your classmates post.  Aim for 4-5 sentences, a short paragraph.

Roaring 20s: Flappers

Read this excerpt from “Flapper Jane” written by Bruce Biven, published in New Republic, Sept 9, 1925.

” Jane is, for one thing, a very pretty girl. Beauty is the fashion in 1925. She is frankly, heavily made up, not to imitate nature, but for an altogether artificial effect–pallor mortis [white as death], poisonously scarlet lips, richly ringed eyes. Jane isn’t wearing much, this summer. If you’d like to know exactly, it is: one dress, one step-in [underwear], two stockings, two shoes. Her dress is cut low where it might be high, and vice versa. The skirt comes just an inch below her knees, overlapping by a faint fraction her rolled and twisted stockings. The idea is that when she walks in a bit of a breeze, you shall now and then observe the knee. Jane’s haircut is also abbreviated [short]. She wears of course the very newest thing in bobs, even closer than last year’s shingle. It leaves her just about no hair at all in the back, and 20 percent more than that in the front. The corset is as dead as the dodo’s grandfather.”

In this excerpt, also from “Flapper Jane, ” the author provides some historical context:

“That fact is, as Jane says, that women to-day are shaking off the shreds and patches of their age-old servitude. ‘Feminism’ has won a victory so nearly complete that we have even forgotten the fierce challenge which once inhered in the very word. Women have highly resolved that they are just as good as men, and intend to be treated so. They don’t mean to have any more unwanted children. They don’t intend to be debarred from any profession or occupation which they choose to enter. They clearly mean (even though not all of them yet realize it) that in the great game of sexual selection they shall no longer be forced to play the role, simulated or real, of helpless quarry [prey].”

Analyze this image from Life magazine in 1922.

flapper butterfly

In the comments: How would you describe a flapper? What have you learned from these primary sources about the  views of the day?

If you would like more information follow these links:Flappers and First Women’s Rights Movement

Meet the presidents: Harding and Coolidge

Warren G Harding (1921-1923)

Visit this site from the National Archives on Harding and explore these photographs.

Harding Speech on High Wages for High Production 7-22-1920 and

According to this site, Harding was one of the worst presidents in US history: US News Worst Presidents (click the link for full story)

Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929)

You can read a biography of Calvin Coolidge here and explore photographs. Also listen to this sound recording from a 4th of July speech and watch a speech from July 24 filmed on the White House lawn.

Post your comments: After exploring these resources, what impressions do you have about these two presidents of the 1920s. If you had the opportunity to visit the White House and meet President Harding and Coolidge what are questions you would ask them? [Post at least one question per president  and  Explain your reasoning for your questions. ]

Discrimination: Nativism and Sacco and Vanzetti

1. Explore these links to learn more about nativism and the famous Sacco and Vanzetti trial.


Sacco and Vanzetti Trial

2. Next read Millay’s poem: Edna St Vincent Millay’s Poem “Denied in Massachusetts”

3. In the comments: What do you consider to be the most powerful images of Millay’s poem? What is the general mood of the poem? Keeping in mind that  she was referring to Sacco and Vanzetti’s execution, what was her feeling about the event?

Prohibition and the Roaring 20s

1. Prohibition gave rise to organized crime, read more about Bootleggers here. Moonshine-Still

2. Here  is the story of a local bootlegger, Percy Flowers

3. And you can learn more about Speakeasies here

4. Prohibition was often referred to as the “noble experiment”, however there were some negative side effects. Study this editorial cartoon editorialCartoon on Prohibition:

In the comments: Describe the message of the artist. What were some of the negative effects of Prohibition? Do you think the “noble experiment” was a failure? What historical evidence  supports your perspective?

Danger Zone! These economic trends in the 20s lead to problems in the 30s

Dangerous economic trendsof the 1920s included speculation,buying on margin, easy credit, installment plans, and overproduction.

  • Read this overview of the economic boom of the 1920s.
  • This site provides statistics about the changing economy. Notice how things change from pre-WWI to the 1920s.
  • This site provides more information about the installment plan
  • This example demonstrates how much the company charged the consumer for buying on credit

Post a comment in which you write about which of these economic trends you think is the most dangerous for the individual and the nation as a whole. After you write your response, reply to at least one classmate. You need to post a minimum of 4 sentences (a short paragraph).