Independent K-12 School in Atlanta

The Paideia School

Harlem Renaissance Festival

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February 26, 3 - 5 pm

What is the Paideia Harlem Renaissance Festival?

The Harlem Renaissance Festival is the theme of Paideia's 2017 Black History Month Celebration. This cultural event is a festival for all members of the Paideia community.

Black History Month is an annual celebration of the achievements, and societal contributions of African American people. Every year Paideia students celebrate the month in many ways including this annual Black Parents Organization sponsored event.

Members of the Paideia community will immerse themselves in this historical era. The festival will include presentations, entertainment, participatory workshops and refreshments served in the Harlem Renaissance inspired Python Club.

Cotton Club

What is the Harlem Renaissance?

The Harlem Renaissance, also known as the New Negro Movement, was a period of great cultural activity and innovation among African American artists and writers. New artists and landmark works appeared in the fields of literature, dance, art, and music. Writers such as Countee Cullen and Langston Hughes; painters like Jacob Lawrence and Romare Bearden; and musicians and composers such as Duke Ellington and Bessie Smith became widely known.

Much of the foundation of the Harlem Renaissance was laid by earlier generations of African American educators, students, and intellectuals. In the decades following the Civil War, many racial barriers to education were removed. Dozens of African American colleges and universities were founded, and African American professors and other intellectuals took increasingly public roles. By the early 1900s, intellectual leaders like W.E.B. DuBois and James Weldon Johnson were writing, lecturing, and being published in journals such as Crisis and The Messenger.

At the same time, African Americans were moving in large numbers from the South to northern industrial cities, like New York, where they could work and escape some of the institutionalized discrimination and mistreatment caused by the South’s Jim Crow laws. Innovative young African American writers, painters, and musicians began gathering in a number of neighborhoods in Manhattan, including Harlem and Greenwich Village, working together and developing new ideas, and in the years after World War I they gained national attention.

Some of the most prominent works created during the Harlem Renaissance were in the fields of literature. Zora Neale Hurston, Claude McKay, Jean Toomer, and Langston Hughes produced novels, poetry, short stories and memoirs.

Hurston, an anthropologist and folklorist, studied with the eminent anthropologist Franz Boaz at Columbia University, and used the music and stories that she collected as a folklorist to inform her novels, plays, and books including Mules and Men and Their Eyes Were Watching God. Langston Hughes, best known as a poet, also wrote plays, a novel, short stories, and an autobiography. Many of his poems were set to music by African American musicians.

The multi-talented Paul Robeson, was a famed concert singer, recording artist, stage and film actor. He was an impassioned advocate of political causes, and his performance tours and activism took him around the world.

Harlem was a center for musical and theatrical performance as well as literary work, as musicians drawn by the neighborhood’s nightlife collaborated with writers, artists, and each other to create original works. Some of this work drew on musical forms that had grown from the African American experience—gospel, jazz, and blues. Other African American musicians worked in classical forms.

Bessie Smith was a legendary blues singer, Marian Anderson broke ground as a classical contralto, and Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington took jazz to new levels of innovation. Eubie Blake was a prolific composer of the Harlem Renaissance, and was one of the creators of the musical revue Shuffle Along. The show was written and produced by African Americans, opened in New York in 1921 to great success.

The visual arts also were part of the Harlem Renaissance. Among the best-known artists of the period were Aaron Douglas, Laura Wheeler Waring, Edward Harleston, and the painter and collage artist Jacob Lawrence.


View and sign up for the festival workshops. Space is limited.

Collage Making - FULL


Facilitator- Henry Leonard, Paideia art teacher

This workshop will encompass a collage making workshop modeled after the vibrant visual arts style of the Harlem Renaissance era.

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“Swing Style” Dance

Facilitator(s)- AREA: Atlanta’s Resource for Entertainment & Arts

Professional dancers from AREA Atlanta will divide students into groups by age and teach each group “swing style” dances popular made during the 1920s era, such as the “Lindy Hop”, the “Breakaway” and the “Charleston”.

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1920’s Era Music

Facilitator - Lydia Lessons

Professional musicians will organize the participants into age groups and instruct the participants in an age appropriate song styled after the sounds of the Harlem Renaissance era. After the music instruction, the students will have a “jam session”. In addition, students will also learn some of the history of the music from this era. Participants should bring their own instruments.

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Harlem Renaissance Literature

Facilitator - Professor Mark Sanders, Emory University.

Professor Sanders will lead participants in an interactive discussion of the authors of the Harlem Renaissance, such as Claude McKay, Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, using musical clips and a short film.

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Storytelling, Song and Dance

Facilitator(s) - Beth Bolden and Adrienne Woods

Designed for the younger participants (half-day and elementary), the facilitators will read excerpts from books that talk about Ella Fitzgerald, Josephine Baker and Langston Hughes. In addition, the students will learn a verse from one of Ms. Fitzgerald's songs and 8-16 counts of one of Josephine Baker's dances. Finally, the facilitators will read the poem, "Harlem Sweeties”, by Langston Hughes and compare the poem to facilitator, Beth Bolden’s book entitled, "There's Nothing Wrong With The Color Of My Skin."

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