Harlem Renaissance

and the Great Migration

Playlist for those with earbuds... 2 playlists

Visit each of the sections and respond to the prompts, listen to music, watch videos, read poems and learn about the Great Migration and Harlem Renaissance.

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#1 MLK on Jazz (see below link)

1. "Jazz is the only true American form of music." Explain this statement.

2. How does it connect into the Harlem Renaissance?

3. MLK on Jazz

  • Audience
  • Main Idea
  • Purpose
  • According to MLK, why does jazz matter?

#2 Langston Hughes

  1. According to your knowledge of history, what was the purpose of Jim Crow laws in the South? Look up if you cannot remember.
  2. What places does Hughes suggest blacks will go if they leave the South?
  3. How does this poem help people today understand life in the South versus the North for blacks at that time?
  4. What is the primary message of "the Merry-Go-Round"?
  5. How are Langston Hughes and "the Great Migration" related?

One Way Ticket

I pick up my life,
And take it with me,
And I put it down in
Chicago, Detroit,
Buffalo, Scranton,
Any place that is
North and East,
And not Dixie.


I pick up my life
And take it on the train,
To Los Angeles, Bakersfield,
Seattle, Oakland, Salt Lake
Any place that is
North and West,
And not South.


I am fed up
With Jim Crow laws,
People who are cruel
And afraid,
Who lynch and run,
Who are scared of me
And me of them


I pick up my life
And take it away
On a one-way ticket-
Gone up North
Gone out West
Gone

the Merry-Go-Round

Where is the Jim Crow section
On this merry-go-round,
Mister, cause I want to ride?
Down South where I come from
White and colored
Can't sit side by side.
Down South on the train
There's a Jim Crow car.
On the bus we're put in the back—
But there ain't no back
To a merry-go-round!
Where's the horse
For a kid that's black?
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#3 Jacob Lawrence's 1940-1941 "Migration Series"

  1. What is the theme of his artwork?
  2. How would you describe the tone?
  3. What do they say about African American life?
  4. Which piece if your favorite? Explain
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#4 Interpret the Meaning of Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit"


  1. Describe the main idea of the song lyrics.
  2. How do the lyrics compare to Langston Hughes poem "One Way Ticket" (above)
  3. What overall mood or feeling does this song convey?
  4. Does the tone match the content of the poem?
Billie Holiday - Strange Fruit

"Strange Fruit" - Billie Holiday

Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant south,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

#5 Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong are notable for their contributions during the Harlem Renaissance. What makes them so special (research) and which one is more important in history (opinion)?

#6 Identify 3 symbols in this piece of art related to the Harlem Renaissance. What do they represent?

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#7 What is "Tin Pan Alley" and how does it fit into the Harlem Renaissance? It it does not, explain why.

Louis Armstrong - Basin Street Blues

#8 What do you think is the most important theme, message, or meaning of the Harlem Renaissance?

Please include a thoughtful response considering the topics of the day, class discussions, notes, and readings.
Michigan J. Frog - 1955 - One Froggy Evening