Paired Texts > The Harlem Renaissance
We've identified these texts as great options for text pairings based on similar themes, literary devices, topic, or writing style. Supplement your lesson with one or more of these options and challenge students to compare and contrast the texts. To assign a paired text, click on the text to go to its page and click the "Assign Text" button there.
Claude McKay (1889-1948) was a Jamaican-American writer and poet who was a seminal figure during the Harlem Renaissance. In this poem, McKay discusses facing death and other obstacles with courage and dignity, and reflects upon his perspective on the black experience during early 20th century America.Pair “If We Must Die” with “The Harlem Renaissance” and ask students to discuss the contributions of the Harlem Renaissance poet to addressing the experiences of African Americans. Do you agree with the interpretation of the poem made by the author of “The Harlem Renaissance?” How does the poem help establish an identity for African Americans?
In Jean Toomer's poem "Storm Ending," a speaker describes a storm taking place above them through figurative language.Pair “The Harlem Renaissance” with “Storm Ending” to provide students with historical context regarding the time and movement Jean Toomer wrote during. Ask students to further discuss the Harlem Renaissance and how the movement may have influenced the style or content of Toomer’s writing. How does the historical context provided in the text influence students’ understanding of “Storm Ending?”
In "Mother to Son," a mother utilizes metaphor to communicate the struggles she's faced and the importance of perseverance to her son.Pair “The Harlem Renaissance” with “Mother to Son” and explore the work of one of the Harlem Renaissance’s prominent poets. Ask students to discuss how the two texts explore life during the Harlem Renaissance. How does Langston Hughes’s poem discuss some of the challenges that African Americans faced during this time?
The speaker in this famous Langston Hughes poem uses symbolism to explain the connection they feel between their ancestry and identity.Pair “The Harlem Renaissance” with “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” and ask students to discuss how this poem reflects the artistic period. How do the style and themes of Langston Hughes’s poetry compare to how it is described in “The Harlem Renaissance?”
In "America," a speaker describes their mixed feelings about America.Pair “The Harlem Renaissance” with “America” and ask students to discuss some of the obstacles that African Americans encountered during this time. How does the poem portray the conflicting experiences African Americans had during the Harlem Renaissance?
In the informational text "The Cotton Club," Jessica McBirney describes the popular club in Harlem where several African American entertainers performed and gained notoriety.Pair “The Cotton Club” with “The Harlem Renaissance” to provide students with additional information concerning the Harlem Renaissance. How does “The Cotton Club” describe the racial injustice that African Americans faced in the North? How is the Cotton Club an example of how African Americans established themselves in the arts during this time?
In this short story, a man seeks revenge when he loses his wife to another. Written during the Harlem Renaissance, "Spunk" offers an exploration of African American culture and features the use of a distinctive southern dialect.Pair “The Harlem Renaissance” with “Spunk” to provide students with historical context regarding the time in which Zora Neale Hurston wrote many of her works. Ask students to discuss how the Harlem Renaissance may have influenced Hurston’s writing. How does Hurston address the African American experience? How does Hurston’s work fit within the Harlem Renaissance movement?
In the short story "Sweat," a working woman tormented by her husband loses her patience.Pair “The Harlem Renaissance” with “Sweat” to help students broaden their understanding of this influential artistic and cultural movement. How does Hurston’s writing reflect on the African American experience? How does her writing address social dynamics within the African American community?
Jessica McBirney's informational text "Duke Ellington" discusses the life and accomplishments of the popular musician.Pair “The Harlem Renaissance” with “Duke Ellington” to provide students with historical context for the period and cultural movement that helped shape Ellington’s music and popularity. How did Ellington’s brand of jazz music contribute to the Harlem Renaissance? How was Ellington similar to other artists who were part of the Harlem Renaissance?
In Claude McKay's poem "To One Coming North," a speaker describes coming north and their feelings about their old home.Pair “The Harlem Renaissance” with “To One Coming North” to provide students with information about why many African Americans moved north. Ask students to discuss how Jessica McBirney describes the opportunities that African Americans had in the North. How does this compare to how the speaker in Claude Mckay’s poem describes experiences in the North?
In Langston Hughes' poem "I, Too," a speaker describes his experience with discrimination and his hope for equality in America in the future.Pair “The Harlem Renaissance” with “I, Too” to provide students with information about the Harlem Renaissance, the movement in which Langston Hughes was a leading figure. What do students learn from the informational text about Hughes’ poetry? How does the poem reflect the themes identified in the informational text?
In the informational text, "Lasting Contributions," Diana Childress discusses how enslaved Africans shaped culture in the Americas.Pair “The Harlem Renaissance” with “Lasting Contributions” to provide students with information about the cultural and artistic movement known as the Harlem Renaissance. How did slavery in the Americas lead to the creation of the Harlem Renaissance? How do both texts demonstrate the impact of African culture on America? How was reading and writing important to that impact?