Music & Poetry of the Harlem Renaissance

The Star Spangled Banner Echoed in the Literature and Music of the Harlem Renaissance

Music/Library Science
Grade Levels (9, 10)
Julia Loving, School Media Specialist
Pelham Preparatory Academy

Jazz Portrait - Harlem, 1958
Description Using print and non-print resources available in the school library, students will research the themes and sentiments of Francis Scott Key’s Star Spangled Banner in relation to the literature and music of the Harlem Renaissance. The themes and sense of “freedom” “rebirth” and “renaissance” cut across African American literature and music of this time period.
Duration: 5 Days (90 minute periods)
Essential Questions:
1. Who is an American? What are our National symbols?
2. Why do Americans sing the Star Spangled Banner and/or Lift Every Voice and Sing?
3. What impact did the Star Spangled Banner on African American views of their American Identity?
4. How can we effectively use online databases and specialized websites to research information about the Great Migration, War of 1812, Battle at Fort McHenryHarlem Renaissance, and the Star Spangled Banner?
5. How did Harlem Renaissance writers and musicians express their “Americanism”?
6. How are the many themes and sentiments of the Star Spangled Banner echoed in the writings and music of the Harlem Renaissance?
Goals and Learning Objectives By completing this lesson, the student will:

  • Learn about the origins, history, and variations of the Star Spangled Banner, and the Battle of Fort McHenry while associating Key’s words with historic events and recognize the sentiment of those words with relations to American Cultural Identity.
  • Learn about the influence the Great Black Migration had on the Harlem Renaissance through it’s songs (Jazz, Ragtime, Blues, Still, Ellington, Basie, Holliday), Liberation Literature (Cullen, Hughes, McKay, Hurston).
  • Understand what life was like for African Americans in the Jim Crow South and the North in the first half of the 20th century, leading to the migration.
  • Learn how to effectively use the school library to locate (Print/ Non-Print) resources related to the topic the Great Migration focusing on the 1920’s.
  • Learn the various on-line websites and links that will assist them in their research.
  • Learn the correlation between jazz music, and African American literature.
  • Learn the difference between primary and secondary resources.
  • Hear and See various videos Jazz, Ragtime and Blues artists. As well as explore what the original scores of the times.
  • Gain an appreciation of the literature produced by African Americans throughout the 20th century.
  • The influence jazz and swing era dance moves such as the Lindy Hop History had on race relations.

American Identity
Interdisciplinary Approach: Library Science, American History (New York City History), African American History, Music, and English Language Arts.
Background/History From 1910 to 1970 approximately 6 million African Americans migrated from the Southern United States to the Northeast, Mid-West, and Western States due to the oppressive head of southern racism and hatred that brought about segregation, lynchings, race riots, low wages, lack of jobs, and discrimination on all levels. In attempt to escape this climate many African Americans began migrating in search of a lifestyle which would allow them to advance and determine their own fate.
Materials Needed
Internet Access                                                                                                                                     Computer (Classroom Set or enough for group activity)                                                             Microsoft Office Products                                                                                                               LCD Projector or Smartboard Technology
KWL Chart (Star Spangled Banner)
Picture Analysis Worksheet (Harlem Renaissance)
Library Online Database Worksheet

Unit Activities


Using the school library students will learn about the various print and non-print resources available about Francis Scott Key’s “The Star Spangled Banner”. Students will learn about its history, hear various variations while learning about Fort McHenry, Francis Scott Key and the War of 1812. Students will be asked to complete a KWL chart about the Star Spangled Banner.  Students will read the entire poem and sing the first stanza of the poem. Students will also be asked to speak about American Identity, American past-time and American symbols. Students will then discuss and list the many sentiments and themes that come out of the Star Spangled Banner.  Ex:  Freedom, Pride,Patriotism, Nationalism, Opportunity, Expansion, Development, Cultural Identity, American Identity, Movement, Independence, Individuality, Taking a Stand, Spirit, Renaissance, Newcomers, Migration and Community.

Day 2: DISCUSS Using the school library students will learn about the various print and non-print resources available about the writers, musicians and the many sentiments and themes of Harlem Renaissance and the Great Black Migration. Students will learn about the Great Migration and the Harlem Renaissance. Teachers can show students pictures of Harlem Renaissance writers, singers, and musicians as a motivation. Have students complete Thinking About the Harlem Renaissance. Students will discuss and list the many themes that come out of the Harlem Renaissance and the Great Black Migration as they relate to the Star Spangled Banner. Ex: Langston Hughes poem “I too, Sing America.”  Students will also see clips and audio from the time period. Students will receive lists of Harlem Renaissance writers, as well as musicians. Handout Harlem Renaissance Writers and Musicians.

Harlem Renaissance Writers
countee    james weldon johnson     zora        jessie fauset     langston Cullen                       Johnson                    Hurston                   Faucet                    Hughes
Harlem Renaissance Musicians/Singers
               Fitzgerald                 Ellington                 Basie                     Holliday                 Waller
Day 3: GATHER Each student is assigned a group. (6 per group).  Each group will be given a task to research one category (music or literature) of the Harlem Renaissance. Each group will then choose a different theme/sentiment from the Star Spangled Banner list created on Day 1 one. The task is to find music or literature of the times that support their chosen theme/sentiment with well thought out statements and facts. At this time students will begin to inquire, explore and compile information from the primary and secondary resources available in print and non-print. Each group must come up with a thesis statement for their presentation Ex: The literature of Countee Cullen echoes the ideas or sentiments of Key’s love for his nation. Students will have access to online databases, links to specialized websites such as the LOC, National Archives, Spotify. etc.
Day 4: COMPILE   After each group has chosen a theme
students will begin to compile and input individual research information in to a Prezi or Powerpoint Presentation.
Day 5: SHARE Group Shareout of learning to the entire class.

* Daily lesson plans will be designed in collaboration with the classroom (music) teacher.


  1. Suggested Books
    Berlin, Ira. The Making of African America: the four great migrations
    Bolden, Tonya. Take Off.  All Girl Bands
    Ferry, Joseph. The National Anthem Hart
    Beckman, Wendy. Artist and writers of the Harlem Renaissance
    Koopsman, Andy. The Harlem Renaissance
    Lees, Jean. Oscar Peterson the swing
    Panorama of American Popular Music; the Story of our National Ballads and folk songs, the songs           of Tin Pan Alley, Broadway and Hollywood, New Orleans
    Seymour, Gene. Jazz the Great American Art
    Stanley, Jerry. I am an American
    Wilkerson, Isabel The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic story of America’s great migration
  2. Columbus Campus Library Website
    Online Databases   (Proquest, NY Times, Gale)                                                                 
  3. Recommended Videos/Youtube Uploads:
    Jazz (PBS- Ken Burns)
    The Roaring Twenties (Henry Nevison)- DVD available in school library
    Star Spangled Banner (Whitney Houston)
    Hot Chocolates
    Ellington’s Take the A
    Lift Every Voice and Sing
    Harlem Renaissance
    Harlem Renaissance Poetry
    Battle at Fort McHenry
    War of 1812
  4. Recommended Links: (Harlem Renaissance Audio) (Harlem Renaissance History)

  5. Specialized Online Sites
    Library of Congress
    Schomburg Library Center:  In Motion the African American
    Britannica Audio Clips (Harlem Renaissance Writers)
    Spotify(Upload Music)
    PBS Great Migration Clips
    Finding Primary Documents
    PBS War of 1812

Assessments Rubric will be used to assess student oral presentation group work.  Prezi_Rubric (2) and RubricPowerPoint.

  • After students have completed their oral presentations, ask them to do a self-assessment with the same rubric and hold a conference with them to compare their self-assessment with your own assessment.
  • Provide students with several examples of oral presentations before they plan and execute their own presentation. Ask students to evaluate and assess the exemplar presentations using the same rubric.
  • Students can do a peer evaluation of oral presentations using this rubric. Students meet in partners or small groups to give each other feedback and explain their scoring.



New York State Common Core Learning Standards (English Language Arts): Reading Literature                                                                                                                       RL.9-10.1  Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
Reading Informational Text RI.9-10.7  Analyze various accounts of a subject told in different mediums (e.g., a person’s life story in both print and multimedia), determining which details are emphasized in each account.
Writing                                                                                                                                               W.9-10.10 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
Speaking and Listening SL.9-10.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one,in g roups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9–10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
Information Fluency Continuum (Library Science Skills)
Standard 1: Using Inquiry to Build Understanding and Create New Knowledge


julia pic
About the Author
Julia Loving           

Julia Loving is a product of the New York City public school system where she has worked as a School Media Specialist for 17 years. Currently, she works at the Christopher Columbus Educational Campus in the Bronx, New York.

The campus consists of five schools, all with different visions, but with the same mission, which is to provide “a quality education for all.” Julia teaches Library and Information Science as well as Africana Studies.

Her motto is, “My students are only as motivated and inspired about learning, as I am.”

About Banner Moments Made available as part of the 2014 Banner Moments K-12 Institute—a project of the American Music Institute of the University of Michigan and the Star Spangled Music Foundation, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities