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Teaching Guide: Exploring the Visual Art of the Harlem Renaissance

This teaching guide helps instructors use a specific primary source set, Visual Art During the Harlem Renaissance, in the classroom. It offers discussion questions, classroom activities, and primary source analysis tools. It is intended to spark pedagogical creativity by giving a sample approach to the material. Please feel free to share, reuse, and adapt the resources in this guide for your teaching purposes.

Discussion questions

  1. What themes do you see evident in the art of the Harlem Renaissance?

  2. Harlem Renaissance artists found inspiration in the culture and history of Egypt, the various nations of Africa, and the Caribbean. Did you see evidence of this in any of the pieces showcased here? In what way?

  3. Often, the visual art of the Harlem Renaissance conveyed subtle or overt criticism of the “status quo” of racial and economic inequity in the US. Did any of the pieces showcased here exemplify this? How so?

  4. How were Harlem Renaissance artists inspired by other artistic movements and popular artists of the era (e.g., Cubism, Picasso)? How did they adhere to these various aesthetics, and how did they depart from them?

  5. How does Archibald Motley’s interview challenge our assumptions about the Harlem Renaissance?

Classroom activities

Break students into two groups and assign each group a gender. Ask each group to explore the male or female subjects of the Harlem Renaissance artwork in this set and draw out any commonalities or themes they see. Then get both groups back together to discuss similarities and differences between the ways men and women are portrayed by this group of artists in these particular pieces of art.

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