Envision Equity February 2019 Special Black History Month Edition


Envision Equity February 2019 Special Black History Month Edition





A Great Day in Harlem.

Photograph by Art Kane,

August 12, 1958.

Photo, google images.

Envision Equity February 2019





By John D. Marshall—Ed.D. Chief Equity Officer, Jefferson County Public Schools

Dr. John Marshall

I am thanking in advance the teachers, principals, and others

who take well-invested time to teach a fuller curriculum that

includes a more complete picture of the world and America.

This special edition of Envision Equity pays homage to the

artists of the Harlem Renaissance. These artists capture(d) the

beauty, pain, love, mistreatment, and genius of Black

(American) life. Whether it be through song, sculpture, acting,

writing, etc., these Black artists created memorable monuments

and moments that deserve far more credit and attention than

many of them receive.

Coined the father of education, Carter G. Woodson said, “If a race

has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a

negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in

danger of being exterminated.” I, for one, wholeheartedly agree

with that statement. What people become is due in some part to

what they know and or do not know. When a person does not know

nor is shown the abundance of attributions, contributions, and

institutions created, owned, and led by his or her culture, it is no

surprise that in some cases he or she (un)consciously acquiesces to

the saturation of a selected

education that does not

wholly, if at all, teach or reach

the heart of the child.

Mr. Woodson also said, “The mere imparting of information is

not education.” Again true! Long gone (should be) are the days Dr. Carter G. Woodson

of lecture, list, listen, repeat. The three Jefferson County Public School (JCPS) initiatives—called the

three pillars: Backpack of Success Skills, Racial Equity, and Culture and Climate—should and could

usher in a new way of not just learning but also being. We are poised to position Henry O. Tanner to

abut a white artist who receives more attention only due to curricula selection. We can share the grit

Envision Equity February 2019

and grace found in Aaron

Douglas's art and

unapologetically use those

paintings to show future

leaders the systemic

failures, successes, and

hope of a world and

country. The artful teacher

can now challenge students

to dive further into said art

and discuss, demonstrate,

debate, doodle, etc., his or

her own feelings and

opinion about the work.

That doodle, essay, or entry

could morph into a student

defense that elucidates her

or his understanding of self

and the society in which he or she lives. This is also way to pay homage to Harlemites who deserve

more worldly attention than he or she receives now. There is no Misty Copeland without Josephine

Baker. There is no Alicia Keys without Florence Mills. There is no Chadwick Boseman without Paul

Robeson. The opportunity, although long overdue, is now. Now we can/must bring in artful, heartful,

and fearless teaching that removes the holey curriculum and ushers in a system that marries deeper

learning and racial equity, which in turn evokes a culture and climate conducive for “Harlem” and the

minds that need to know about the geniuses who worked, played, and lived there.

This special edition of Envision Equity is an attempt to respect more than the month and the

historical greatness of the brilliant, brave, beautiful Black artists gracing these pages, but to also

celebrate the artistry of teachers and leaders who know and show students that without Harlem

(Black) history, there is no accurate American history.

“Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which

comes from the teaching of biography and history.”

—Carter G. Woodson

Envision Equity February 2019


With the end of the Civil War in 1865, hundreds of

thousands of African Americans newly freed from the

yoke of slavery in the South began to dream of fuller

participation in American society, including political

empowerment, equal economic opportunity, and

economic and cultural self-determination.

With booming economies across the North and Midwest

offering industrial jobs for workers of every race, many

African Americans realized their hopes for a better

standard of living—and a more racially tolerant

environment—lay outside the South. By the turn of the

20th century, the Great Migration was underway as

hundreds of thousands of African Americans relocated

to cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit, Philadelphia, and New York. The Harlem section of

Manhattan, which covers just three square miles, drew nearly 175,000 African Americans, giving the

neighborhood the largest concentration of black people in the world. Harlem became a destination for

African Americans of all backgrounds. From unskilled laborers to an educated middle-class, they

shared common experiences of slavery, emancipation, and racial oppression, as well as a determination

to forge a new identity as free people.

The Great Migration drew to Harlem some of the greatest minds and brightest talents of the day, an

astonishing array of African American artists and scholars. Between the end of World War I and the

mid-1930s, they produced one of the most significant eras of cultural expression in the nation’s history

—the Harlem Renaissance. Yet this cultural explosion also occurred in Cleveland, Los Angeles and

many cities shaped by the great migration. Alain Locke, a Harvard-educated writer, critic, and teacher

who became known as the “dean” of the Harlem Renaissance, described it as a “spiritual coming of age”

in which African Americans transformed “social disillusionment to race pride.”

The Harlem Renaissance encompassed poetry and prose, painting and sculpture, jazz and swing, opera

and dance. What united these diverse art forms was their realistic presentation of what it meant to be

black in America, what writer Langston Hughes called an “expression of our individual dark-skinned

selves,” as well as a new militancy in asserting their civil and political rights.

Among the Renaissance’s most significant contributors were electrifying performers Josephine Baker

and Paul Robeson; writers and poets Zora Neale Hurston, Effie Lee Newsome, Countee Cullen; visual

artists Aaron Douglas and Augusta Savage; and an extraordinary list of legendary musicians, including

Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Eubie Blake, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Ivie

Anderson, Josephine Baker, Fats Waller, Jelly Roll Morton, and countless others.

Please enjoy these profiles of notable members of the Harlem Renaissance era. A lesson plan is

included on pages 35 & 36 for teachers to use in the classroom.

Envision Equity February 2019

Aaron Douglas

Born in Topeka, Kansas, Aaron Douglas was a leading figure in the artistic and literary movement known as the

Harlem Renaissance. He is sometimes referred to as "the father of black American art." Douglas developed an

interest in art early on, finding some of his inspiration from his mother's love for painting watercolors.

After graduating from Topeka High School in 1917, Douglas attended the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. There,

he pursued his passion for creating art, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1922. Around that time, he

shared his interest with the students of Lincoln High School in Kansas City, Missouri. He taught there for two

years, before deciding to move to New York City. At the time, New York's Harlem neighborhood had a thriving

arts scene.

Arriving in 1925, Douglas quickly became immersed Harlem's cultural life.

He contributed illustrations to Opportunity, the National Urban League's

magazine, and to The Crisis, put out by the National Association for the

Advancement Colored People. Douglas created powerful images of

African-American life and struggles, and won awards for the work he

created for these publications, ultimately receiving a commission to

illustrate an anthology of philosopher Alain LeRoy Locke's work,

entitled The New Negro.

Douglas had a unique artistic style that fused his interests in

modernism and African art. A student of German-born painter

Winold Reiss, he incorporated parts of Art Deco along with

elements of Egyptian wall paintings in his work. Many of his

figures appeared as bold silhouettes.

In 1926, Douglas married teacher Alta Sawyer, and the couple's

Harlem home became a social Mecca for the likes of Langston

Hughes and W. E. B. Du Bois, among other powerful African

Americans of the early 1900s. Around the same time, Douglas

worked on a magazine with novelist Wallace Thurman to feature

African-American art and literature. Entitled Fire!!, the magazine

only published one issue.

Aaron Douglas. Aspects of Negro Life: The

Negro in an African Setting. Oil on canvas,

1934. The New York Public Library,

Schomburg Center for Research in Black

Culture, Art and Artifacts Division.

Envision Equity February 2019

Why I

Teaching Art

“Maybe you should be an art teacher,” was a statement my group chaperone uttered to me

during an Art Department field trip to New York City during my senior year of high school. In

an effort to add confusion to what seemed, at that point, a life-altering decision, the idea

echoed in my mind. At that time, my love for art resonated in the fact that I was good at it. I

would graffiti the cover of every folder, doodle on every notebook cover, and scribble random

thoughts on the edge of every single paper I touched.

In learning effective and impactful teaching strategies, my theory is that art is a learned


just as reading and math are. The more effort, focus, and hard work

placed into the subject, the higher the outcome for successfully

learned skills. Beautiful moments arise when students who

witness themselves struggling in core subjects find success

stemming from their natural art skills and capability to

express themselves through forms not related to their math

facts or reading levels. The ultimate payoff as an art

teacher is to see the pride of completing a masterpiece

from students who often thought positive outcomes

were void in their lives; the picture they paint is


Photos, Abdul Sharif

Envision Equity February 2019

Duke Ellington

Born on April 29, 1899, Duke Ellington was raised by two talented, musical parents in a middle-class

neighborhood of Washington D.C. At the age of seven, he began studying piano and earned the nickname

"Duke" for his gentlemanly ways. Inspired by his job as a soda jerk, he wrote his first composition, "Soda

Fountain Rag," at the age of 15. Despite being awarded an art scholarship to the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New

York, Ellington followed his passion for ragtime and began to play professionally at age 17.

In the 1920s, Ellington performed in Broadway nightclubs as the bandleader of a sextet, a

which in time grew to a 10-piece ensemble. Ellington sought out musicians with unique

playing styles, such as Bubber Miley, who used a plunger to make the "wa-wa" sound,

and Joe Nanton, who gave the world his trombone "growl." At various times, his

ensemble included the trumpeter Cootie Williams, cornetist Rex Stewart and alto

saxophonist Johnny Hodges. Ellington made hundreds of recordings with his

bands, appeared in films and on radio, and toured Europe on two occasions in the


Ellington's fame rose to the rafters in the 1940s when he composed several

masterworks, including "Concerto for Cootie," "Cotton Tail" and "Ko-Ko." Some of

his most popular songs included "It Don't Mean a Thing if It Ain't Got That Swing,"

"Sophisticated Lady," "Prelude to a Kiss," "Solitude," and "Satin Doll." A number of

his hits were sung by the impressive Ivie Anderson, a favorite female vocalist of

Duke's band.


Finish The Statement

If I could spend one day in Harlem, New York during the

Harlem Renaissance, I would...

“I would sit in on a set with

Duke Ellington at the

Cotton Club while he

played all of his big band


John D. Marshall Ed.D

Chief Equity Officer

“Mine would have to be the

chance to hear Louis

Armstrong live. I can

remember hearing him on

TV (it may have been about

the time of his death) and

asking my dad who he was

and what instrument he was


Jimmy Adams

Chief of Human Resources

“I would hang out with

Zora Neale Hurston. I’d

ask her to read her

writings aloud and to

discuss her research.

Most importantly, I’d

encourage her and tell

her how amazing

people (including me)

would think her work

was in the future.”

Kim Morales, Principal

Seneca High School

“Sit down, relax, and

enjoy the amazing jazz


Randy Frantz

JCPS Director of


“I would spend the day talking to Langston Hughes about his personal and

cultural experiences, and how those experiences influenced his poetic

revelations and artistry of black life during the Renaissance.”

Dr. Toetta Taul

Marion C. Moore

Freshman Academy Principal

Envision Equity February 2019

William Henry Johnson

Artist William Henry Johnson was born on March 18, 1901, in the small town of Florence, South Carolina, to

parents Henry Johnson and Alice Smoot, who were both laborers. Johnson realized his dreams of becoming

an artist at a young age, copying cartoons from the paper as a child. However, as the oldest of the family's five

children, who lived in a poor, segregated town in the South, Johnson tucked away his aspirations of becoming

an artist, deeming them unrealistic.

But Johnson finally left South Carolina in 1918, at the age of 17, to pursue his dreams in New York City. There,

he enrolled at the National Academy of Design and met Charles Webster Hawthorne, a well-known artist who

took Johnson under his wing. While Hawthorne recognized Johnson's talent, he knew that Johnson would

have a difficult time excelling as an African-American artist in the United States, and thus raised enough

money to send the young artist to Paris, France, upon his graduation in 1926.

Though they had moved to avoid any conflict with the Nazis, William and Holcha still faced racism and

discrimination as an interracial couple living in the United States. The artistic community of Harlem, New

York, which had become more enlightened and experimental following the Harlem Renaissance, embraced the

couple, however.

Around this time, Johnson took a job as an art teacher at the Harlem Community

also continuing to create art in his spare time. Transitioning from

expressionism to a primitive style of artwork, or primitivism,

Johnson's work during this time displayed brighter colors and twodimensional

objects, and often included portrayals of African-

American life in Harlem, the South and the military. Some of these

works, including paintings depicting black soldiers fighting on the

front lines as well as the segregation that took place there, served

as commentaries on the treatment of African Americans in the

U.S. Army during World War II.

Art Center,

William H. Johnson, Jitterbugs (II), ca. 1941,

oil on paperboard.

Envision Equity February 2019

A Day in Harlem with

Mr. Ashford

If I could spend one day in Harlem, New York, during the Harlem Renaissance, I would shed

my denim jeans, like the other migrants from the South, for a three-piece suit and fedora. I

would proudly walk two square miles around this oasis of black consciousness before

marching with protesters at the Silence Parade. I would then press my way through the

thousands of participants organized to protest violent crimes against African Americans,

until I was right behind James Weldon Johnson and W.E.B. DuBois. I would tell W.E.B.

DuBois how The Souls of Black Folks changed my perspective and ask him to be my tour

guide in hopes he would take me to Negrotti Manor on 136th Street, by way

of his favorite soul food restaurant. I would ask DuBois his opinion of

Alain Locke, “The New Negro,” and the art of Erin Douglas inspired

by Marcus Garvey’s vision of the motherland. I would ask DuBois

how he felt the first time he heard a Langston Hughes poem. I

would buy us both tickets to the theater to see movies starring

actors, who looked like us, acting out scripts that unapologetically

explored the racial challenges and issues of black community from

the black perspective. As evening neared, I would tip-toe in the back

door of the Cotton Club to observe the mixed crowd and witness jazz

in its purest form conducted by no other than Duke Ellington himself.

But those who truly know me know, I’m not a “Bourgeois Negro,” so, I

would have to top off my night with a trip to the nearest

speakeasy. Where I could hopefully hear some blues, sip on

some hooch or giggle water, and sweat out my zoot suit

dancing with a tall chocolate drink of water.

Photos, Abdul Sharif

Envision Equity February 2019

Augusta Savage

Augusta Savage was born Augusta Christine Fells on February 29, 1892, in Green Cove Springs, Florida. Part of a

large family, she began making art as a child, using the natural clay found in her area. Skipping school at times,

she enjoyed sculpting animals and other small figures. But her father, a Methodist minister, didn't approve of

this activity and did whatever he could to stop her. Savage once said that her father "almost whipped all the art

out of me."

Despite her father's objections, Savage continued to make sculptures. When the family moved to West Palm

Beach, Florida, in 1915, she encountered a new challenge: a lack of clay. Savage eventually got some materials

from a local potter and created a group of figures that she entered in a local county fair. Her work was well

received, winning a prize and along the way the support of the fair's superintendent, George Graham Currie. He

encouraged her to study art despite the racism of the day.




soon started to make a name for herself as a portrait sculptor. Her works from this

include busts of such prominent African Americans as W. E. B. Du

Bois and Marcus Garvey. Savage was considered to be one of the leading artists

the Harlem Renaissance, a preeminent African-American literary and artistic

movement of the 1920s and '30s.

Eventually, following a series of family crises, Savage got her opportunity to

study abroad. She was awarded a Julius Rosenwald fellowship in 1929, based

in part on a bust of her nephew entitled Gamin. Savage spent time in Paris,

where she exhibited her work at the Grand Palais. She earned a

second Rosenwald fellowship to continue her studies for another year, and a

separate Carnegie Foundation grant

allowed her

to travel to other European countries.

Envision Equity February 2019

Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday was born Eleanora Fagan on April 7, 1915, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Some sources say her

birthplace was Baltimore, Maryland, and her birth certificate reportedly reads "Elinore Harris.")

Holiday spent much of her childhood in Baltimore. Her mother, Sadie, was only a teenager when she had her.

Her father is widely believed to be Clarence Holiday, who eventually became a successful jazz musician,

playing with the likes of Fletcher Henderson.

In her difficult early life, Holiday found solace in music, singing along to the records

of Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong. She followed her mother, who had moved to

New York City in the late 1920s, and worked in a house of prostitution in

Harlem for a time.

Around 1930, Holiday began singing in local clubs and renamed

herself "Billie" after the film star Billie Dove.

Holiday toured with the Count Basie Orchestra in 1937. The following

year, she worked withArtie Shaw and his orchestra. Holiday broke new

ground with Shaw, becoming one of the first female African American

vocalists to work with a white orchestra.

Promoters, however, objected to Holiday—for her race and for her unique

vocal style—and she ended up leaving the orchestra out of frustration.

While her hard living was taking a toll on her voice, Holiday continued to

tour and record in the 1950s. She began recording for Norman

Granz, the owner of several small jazz labels, in 1952. Two

years later, Holiday had a hugely successful tour of Europe.

Holiday also caught the public's attention by sharing her life

story with the world in 1956. Her autobiography, Lady Sings

the Blues (1956), was written in collaboration by William Dufty.

Envision Equity February 2019

Romare Bearden

An only child, Romare Bearden was born on September 2, 1914, in Charlotte, North Carolina. When he was still a

child, the family moved to Harlem, New York City, where his mother was a well-known journalist and political

activist. He received a bachelor of science degree from New York University because, he said, "I thought I wanted

to be a medical doctor." E. Simms Campbell, the renowned African American cartoonist, encouraged him to

study painting with George Grosz, the German-born painter and satirical draftsman, at the Art Students' League

in New York. "It was Grosz, " Bearden remembered with gratitude, "who first introduced me to classical

draftsmen like Hogarth and Ingres." Essential as formal institutions were to his development as a person and an

artist, his association with African American artists and intellectuals of the Depression period cannot be

minimized. Among these were the painters Norman Lewis and Jacob Lawrence and the writer Ralph Ellison,

who maintained an atmosphere of social and political concern which heavily influenced Bearden's early work.

Even though his concern for these problems in no way diminished later and all his works abound in ethnic

subject matter, the mild-mannered, almost shy artist insisted that he was not a social propagandist. "My subject

is people, " he said. "They just happen to turn out to be Negro.”

Early in his career he emulated the styles of Rufino Tamayo and José Clemente Orozco, painting simple forms

and echoing the crude power he had come to admire in medieval art. His paintings of everyday black life were

forceful in color; the figures followed simple patterns and their statements were literal, as in graphic art rather

than painting. By 1945 he had begun to adopt a less literal, more personal style, which


to be the most congenial for his unique artistic expressions. In the 1950s, while working as

a New

York City Welfare Department investigator, he expressed his feelings in lyrical


The early 1960s brought a period of transition for Bearden. In 1963 a group of African

American artists began meeting in his Harlem studio. Calling themselves the Spiral

Group, they sought to define their roles as black artists within the context of the

growing civil rights movement.

His "Projections" series, exhibited in 1964, caused a wave of controversy

and excitement. The tormented faces of African American women

hanging upside down on the cracked stoops of Harlem tenements, New

York bridges soaring out of Carolina cotton fields, and African

pyramids colliding with American folk singers strumming guitars

prompted one critic to write that the show comprised "a collection of

headhunters." These startling images, constructed from newspaper

and magazine photographs, had been enlarged from their original

color into huge black-and-white photographs that provided the

artist's desired effect of urgency.

Mr. Jeremiah's Sunset Guitar, 1981.

Envision Equity February 2019

Bill “Bojangles” Robinson

Bill "Bojangles" Robinson was born Luther Robinson in Richmond, Virginia, on May 25, 1878. His father,

Maxwell, worked in a machine shop, while his mother, Maria, was a choir singer. After both of his parents died

in 1885, Robinson was raised by his grandmother, Bedilia, who had been a slave earlier in her life. According to

Robinson, he used physical force to compel his brother, Bill, to switch names with him, since he did not care for

his given name of Luther. Additionally, as a young man, he earned the nickname "Bojangles" for his contentious


At the age of 5, Robinson began dancing for a living, performing in local beer gardens. In 1886, at the age of 9,

he joined Mayme Remington's touring troupe. In 1891, he joined a traveling company, later performing as a

vaudeville act. He achieved great success as a nightclub and musical-comedy performer. At this stage of

his career, he performed almost exclusively in black theaters before

black audiences.

Robinson's fame withstood the decline of African-American revues. He starred in 14

Hollywood motion pictures, many of them musicals, and played

multiple roles

opposite the child star Shirley Temple. His film credits

include Rebecca of

Sunnybrook Farm, The Little Colonel and Stormy

Weather, costarring

Lena Horne and Cab Calloway. Despite

his fame,

Robinson was not able to transcend the

narrow range of

stereotypical roles written for black

actors at the time. By

accepting these roles, Robinson

was able to maintain steady

employment and remain in

the public eye. In 1939, at the

age of 61, he performed

in The Hot Mikado, a jazz-inspired

interpretation of

Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta.


celebrated his 61st birthday publicly

by dancing down 61

blocks of Broadway.

Finish The Statement

If I could spend one day in Harlem, New York during the

Harlem Renaissance, I would...

“Start the day with a plate of chicken and waffles (the dish

originated in Harlem), spend the day walking around soaking up

the art, culture and camaraderie, then end the day at the Cotton

Club enjoying the best of the best of Jazz.”

Ben Johnson, CPRP

Assistant Director, Recreation

Louisville Parks and Recreation

“If I could spend one day in Harlem New York during the

Harlem Renaissance, I would speak with community leaders &

owners of black businesses to learn how community campaigns

during that time promoted the concept of the 'Double Duty

Dollar' and encouraged residents to shop in black

establishments. Then I would visit the Cotton Club! Hopefully,

Duke Ellington would be performing!”

Sam Johnson

Director of Youth Development and Education

Louisville Urban League, Inc.

“If I could spend one day in Harlem New York during the

Harlem Renaissance, I would meet up with Zora Neal

Hurston and talk about her writings.”

Kellie Watson

Chief Equity Officer

at Louisville Metro Government

Envision Equity February 2019

Alain Locke

Alain LeRoy Locke was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on September 13, 1886, to father Pliny Ishmael and

mother Mary Hawkins Locke. A gifted student, Locke graduated from Philadelphia's Central High School second

in his class in 1902. He attended the Philadelphia School of Pedagogy before matriculating at Harvard

University, from which he graduated in 1907 with degrees in both literature and philosophy.

Despite his intellect and clear talent, Locke faced significant barriers as an African American. Though he was

selected as the first African-American Rhodes Scholar, Locke was denied admission to several colleges at the

University of Oxford because of his race. He finally gained entry into Hertford College, where he studied from

1907 to 1910. Locke also studied philosophy at the University of Berlin during his years abroad.

Locke promoted African-American artists and writers, encouraging them to look to Africa for artistic inspiration.

Author Zora Neale Hurston received significant support from Locke. He also reviewed the work of African-

American scholars in the pages of the periodicals Opportunity and Phylon, and published work on African-

American art, theater, poetry and music.

Much of Locke's writing focused on African and African-American identity. His collection of writing and

illustrations, The New Negro, was published in 1925 and quickly became a classic. He also published pieces on

the Harlem Renaissance, communicating the energy and potential of Harlem culture to a wide audience of both

black and white readers. For his part in developing the movement, Locke has been dubbed the "Father of the

Harlem Renaissance." His views on African-American intellectual and cultural life differed sharply from those of

other Harlem Renaissance leaders, however, including W.E.B. Du Bois (who was also a friend of Locke's). While

Du Bois believed that African-American artists should aim to uplift their race, Locke argued that the artist's

responsibility was primarily to himself or herself.

Envision Equity February 2019

Cab Calloway

Singer and bandleader Cab Calloway was born in Rochester, New York, in 1907. He learned the art of scat

singing before landing a regular gig at Harlem's famous Cotton Club. Following the enormous success of his

song "Minnie the Moocher" (1931), Calloway became one of the most popular entertainers of the 1930s and '40s.

He appeared on stage and in films before his death in 1994, at age 86, in Hockessin, Delaware.

In 1930, Calloway got a gig at Harlem's famed Cotton Club. Soon, as the bandleader of Cab Calloway and his

Orchestra, he became a regular performer at the popular nightspot. Calloway hit the big time with "Minnie the

Moocher" (1931), a No. 1 song that sold more than one million copies. The tune's famous call-and-response "hide-hi-de-ho"

chorus—improvised when he couldn't recall a lyric—became Calloway's signature phrase for the

rest of his career.

Calloway and his orchestra had successful tours in Canada, Europe and across the United States, traveling in

private train cars when they visited the South in order to escape some of the hardships of segregation. With his

enticing voice, energetic onstage moves and dapper white tuxedos, Calloway was the star attraction. However,

the group's musical talent was just as impressive, partly because the salaries Calloway offered were

second only to Duke Ellington's. The standout musicians Calloway performed with


saxophonist Chu Berry, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and drummer Cozy Cole.

In 1993, President Bill Clinton presented Calloway with a National Medal of

Arts. Calloway's later years were spent in White Plains, New York, until he

had a stroke in June 1994. He then moved to a nursing home in Hockessin,

Delaware, where he died on November 18, 1994, at the age of 86.


Envision Equity February 2019

Ella Fitzgerald

Born in 1917, Ella Fitzgerald turned to singing after a troubled childhood and debuted at the Apollo Theater in

1934. Discovered in an amateur contest, she went on to become the top female jazz singer for decades.

In 1958, Fitzgerald made history as the first African-American woman to win a Grammy Award. Due in no small

part to her vocal quality, with lucid intonation and a broad range, the singer would go on to win 13 Grammys in

total and sell more than 40 million albums.

Her multi-volume "songbooks" on Verve Records are among America's recording treasures. Fitzgerald died in

California in 1996.

In the mid-1940s, Granz had started Jazz at the Philharmonic, a series of concerts and live records featuring

most of the genre's great performers. Fitzgerald also hired Granz to become her manager.

Around this time, Fitzgerald went on tour with Dizzy Gillespie and his band. She started changing her singing

style, incorporating scat singing during her performances.

Fitzgerald also fell in love with Gillespie's bass player Ray Brown. The pair wed in 1947, and they adopted a child

born to Fitzgerald's half-sister whom they named Raymond "Ray" Brown Jr. The marriage ended in 1952.

In 1956, Fitzgerald began recording for the newly created Verve. She made

most popular albums for the label, starting out with 1956's Ella

Sings the Cole PorterSong Book.

At the very first Grammy Awards in 1958, Fitzgerald picked up her

Grammys—and made history as the first African-American woman to

award—for best individual jazz performance and best female vocal

performance for the two songbook projects Ella Fitzgerald Sings

Ellington Song Book and Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Irving Berlin Song

Book, respectively. (She worked directly with Ellington on the former

some of her


first two

win the

the Duke


Envision Equity February 2019

Jacob Lawrence

Raised in Harlem, New York, Jacob Lawrence became the most renowned African-

American artist of his time. Known for producing narrative collections like

the Migration Series and War Series, he illustrated the African-American experience

using vivid colors set against black and brown figures. He also served as a professor of

art at the University of Washington for 15 years.

At the outbreak of World War II, Lawrence was drafted into the United States Coast

Guard. After being briefly stationed in Florida and Massachusetts, he was assigned to be

the Coast Guard artist aboard a troopship, documenting the war experience as he traveled

around the world. During this time, he produced close to 50

paintings but all ended up being lost.

When his tour of duty ended, Lawrence received a Guggenheim

Fellowship and painted his War Series. He was also invited by Josef

Albers to teach the summer session at Black Mountain College in North

Carolina. Albers reportedly hired a private train car to transport Lawrence

and his wife to the college so they wouldn’t be forced to transfer to the “colored”

car when the train crossed the Mason-Dixon Line.

When he returned to New York, Lawrence continued honing his craft but began

struggling with depression. In 1949 he admitted himself into Hillside Hospital in

Queens, staying for close to a year. As a patient at the facility, he produced artwork that

reflected his emotional state, incorporating subdued colors and melancholy figures in his

paintings, which was a sharp contrast to his other works.

In 1951, Lawrence painted works based on memories of performances at the Apollo

Theater in Harlem. He also began teaching again, first at Pratt Institute and later the

New School for Social Research and the Art Students League.

Jacob Lawrence In the North the Negro had better educational facilities 1940-41

Envision Equity February 2019

James Van Der Zee

The Harlem Renaissance was in full swing during the 1920s and '30s, and for decades, Van Der Zee would

photograph Harlemites of all backgrounds and occupations, though his work is particularly noted for its

pioneering depiction of middle-class African-American life. He took thousands

of pictures, mostly

indoor portraits, and labeled each of his photos with a signature and date,

which would

prove to be important for future documentation.

Although Van Der Zee photographed many African-American

including Florence Mills, Hazel Scott and Adam Clayton Powell Jr.—

his work was of the straightforward commercial studio variety:

weddings and funerals (including pictures of the dead for grieving

families), family groups, teams, lodges, clubs, and people simply

to have a record of themselves in fine clothes. He often

supplied props or costumes and took time to carefully pose

subjects, giving the picture an accessible narrative.

Van Der Zee's photos sometimes contained special

from the result of darkroom manipulation. In one

image, a 1920 photograph titled "Future Expectations

(Wedding Day)," a young couple is presented in bride

and groom finery, with a ghostly, transparent image of

a child at their feet.

With the advent of personal cameras in the middle of

the century, the desire for Van Der Zee's services

dwindled; he procured less and less commissions,

though he maintained an alternative business in

image restoration and mail order sales. He and

Greenlee were of very limited means when, in 1969, the

Metropolitan Museum of Art mounted an exhibition

featuring Van Der Zee, Harlem on My Mind, bringing the

photographer and his work renewed attention.




most of


Envision Equity February 2019

James Weldon Johnson

James Weldon Johnson was born in Jacksonville, Florida, on June 17, 1871, the son of a freeborn Virginian

father and a Bahamian mother, and was raised without a sense of limitations amid a society focused on

segregating African Americans. After graduating from Atlanta University, Johnson was hired as a principal in a

grammar school. While serving in this position, in 1895, he founded The Daily American newspaper. In 1897,

Johnson became the first African American to pass the bar exam in Florida.

Not long after, in 1900, James and his brother, John, wrote the song "Lift Every Voice and Sing," which would

later become the official anthem of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. (The

Johnson brothers would go on to write more than 200 songs for the Broadway musical stage.) Johnson then

moved to New York and studied literature at Columbia University, where he met other African-American


In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed James Weldon Johnson to diplomatic positions in Venezuela

and Nicaragua. Upon his return in 1914, Johnson became involved with the NAACP, and by 1920, was serving

as chief executive of the organization. Also during this period, he became known

as one of

the leading figures in the creation and development of the African-

American artistic community known as the Harlem Renaissance.

Johnson published hundreds of stories and poems during his lifetime.

He also produced works such as God's Trombones (1927), a collection

that celebrates the African-American experience in the rural South

and elsewhere, and the novel The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored

Man (1912)—making him the first black-American author to treat

Harlem and Atlanta as subjects in fiction. Based, in part, on Johnson's

own life, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man was published

anonymously in 1912, but did not attract attention until Johnson reissued

it under his own name in 1927.

After retiring from the NAACP in 1930, Johnson devoted the rest of his

life to writing. In 1934, he became the first African-American professor at

New York University.

Johnson died in a car accident in Wiscasset, Maine, on June 26, 1938, at the

age of 67. More than 2,000 people attended his funeral in Harlem.

Envision Equity February 2019

Langston Hughes

Hughes graduated from high school in 1920 and spent the following year in Mexico with his father. Around this

time, Hughes' poem "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" was published in The Crisis magazine and was highly praised.

In 1921 Hughes returned to the United States and enrolled at Columbia University where he studied briefly, and

during which time he quickly became a part of Harlem's burgeoning cultural movement, what is commonly

known as the Harlem Renaissance.

But Hughes dropped out of Columbia in 1922 and worked various odd jobs around New York for the following

year, before signing on as a steward on a freighter that took him to Africa and Spain. He left the ship in 1924 and

lived for a brief time in Paris, where he continued to develop and publish his poetry.

In 1951 Hughes published one of his most celebrated poems, "Harlem (What happens to a dream deferred?'),"

discussing how the American Dream falls short for African Americans:

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up

like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore—

And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or crust and sugar over—

Like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags

Like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Envision Equity February 2019

Lena Horne

Actress and singer Lena Horne was born June 30, 1917, in Brooklyn, New York. She left school at age 16 to help

support her family and became a dancer at the Cotton Club in Harlem. After having established herself as a

sought after live singer, a role she would maintain throughout her life, she later signed with MGM studios and

became known as one of the top African-American performers of her time, seen in such films as Cabin in the

Skyand Stormy Weather. She was also known for her work with civil rights groups and refused to play roles that

stereotyped African-American women, a stance that many found controversial. After some


out of the limelight during the '70s, she made a revered, award-winning comeback

with her 1981 show Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music. Continuing to record into

her later years, Horne died on May 9, 2010.

At age 16, Horne dropped out of school and began performing at the Cotton Club

in Harlem. After making her Broadway debut in the autumn 1934

production Dance With Your Gods, she joined Noble Sissle & His Orchestra as a

singer, using the name Helena Horne. Then, after appearing in the Broadway

musical revue Lew Leslie's Blackbirds of 1939, she joined a well-known white

swing band, the Charlie Barnet Orchestra. Barnet was one of the first bandleaders

to integrate his band, but because of racial prejudice, Horne was unable to stay or

socialize at many of the venues in which the orchestra performed, and she soon

left the tour. In 1941 she returned to New York to work at the Café Society

nightclub, popular with both black and white artists and intellectuals.

Horne was married to Louis Jones from 1937 to 1944, and they had two children. She

married Lennie Hayton, a white bandleader, in December 1947 in Paris, France, but

they kept their marriage a secret for three years. A union that was

significantly impacted by racial prejudice, they separated in the 1960s

but never divorced.

Stormy Weather, a well-received biography of Lena Horne's life,

was published in 2009 and written by James

Gavin. Horne also published her own

memoir, Lena, in 1965.

Envision Equity February 2019

Lois Mailou Jones

Lois Mailou Jones was a painter whose works reflect a command of widely varied styles, from traditional

landscape to African-themed abstraction.

In the 1930s, Lois Mailou Jones' art reflected the influences of African traditions, and she designed African-style

masks and in 1938 painted Les Fétiches, which depicts masks in five distinct, ethnic styles. During a year in

Paris, she produced landscapes and figure studies, and African influences reemerged in her art in the late 1960s

and early '70s, particularly after two tours of Africa.

In 1928 Jones formed and chaired the art department at the Palmer Memorial Institute in North Carolina, and

two years later was recruited to teach at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Jones taught design and

watercolor painting at Howard for the next forty-seven years. She mentored hundreds of students in the

practicalities of an art career and took them on art tours to Europe and Africa. In 1937 Jones received a yearlong

fellowship that took her to Paris to live and work. This was a defining moment for the young black artist

who experienced—for the first time in her life—the complete freedom to live as she wished without the

indignities of segregation that she felt in the United States. She loved Paris and Parisians. Here, she painted

street scenes, still lifes, and portraits in an impressionist and post-impressionist style. Jones returned to

Paris many times during her life.

Jones incorporated African heritage and the American black


into her art, responding to the challenge of African American


associated with the Harlem Renaissance. She included African

motifs in

her work; later, after she married Haitian artist Louis Pierre-

Noël in

1953, she began spending time on this Caribbean island and added

Haitian subjects to her repertoire.

Jones died at age ninety-two. Her artistic legacy is recorded

hundreds of her canvases—and in the passion and

she communicated to some 2,500 students.



Loïs Mailou Jones "Ubi Girl from Tai Region,"

1972, acrylic on canvas.

Envision Equity February 2019

Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong was born on August 4, 1901, in New Orleans, Louisiana, in a section so poor that it was

nicknamed "The Battlefield."

Armstrong had a difficult childhood. His father was a factory worker and abandoned the family soon after

Louis's birth; his mother, who often turned to prostitution, frequently left him with his maternal grandmother.

Armstrong was obligated to leave school in the fifth grade to begin working.

A local Jewish family, the Karnofskys, gave young Armstrong a job collecting junk and delivering coal. They also

encouraged him to sing and often invited him into their home for meals.

On New Year's Eve in 1912, Armstrong fired his stepfather's gun in the air during a New Year's Eve celebration

and was arrested on the spot. He was then sent to the Colored Waif's Home for Boys.

There, he received musical instruction on the cornet and fell in love with music. In 1914, the home released him,

and he immediately began dreaming of a life making music.

Armstrong set a number of African-American "firsts." In 1936, he became the first African-American jazz

musician to write an autobiography: Swing That Music.

That same year, he became the first African-American to get featured billing in a major Hollywood movie with

his turn in Pennies from Heaven, starring Bing Crosby. Additionally, he became the first African-American

entertainer to host a nationally sponsored radio show in 1937, when he took over Rudy

Vallee's Fleischmann's Yeast Show for 12 weeks.

Armstrong continued to appear in major films with the likes of Mae West, Martha

Raye and Dick Powell. He was also a frequent presence on radio, and often broke

box-office records at the height of what is now known as the "Swing Era."

Armstrong's fully healed lip made its presence felt on some of the finest recordings

of career, including "Swing That Music," "Jubilee" and "Struttin' with Some


Finish The Statement

If I could spend one day in Harlem, New York during the

Harlem Renaissance, I would...

“I would dress up like the Cabaret

dancers and dance as the jazz is

being played.”

Michelle L. Dillard

Assistant Superintendent

of Middle Schools

Jefferson County Public Schools

“I would have a long conversation

with Dr. W.E.B. DuBois to talk

about his next article in The Crisis

Magazine about our unique

perspective and intellectual


Dr. Marco Muñoz, Director

Accelerated Improvement Schools

Jefferson County Public Schools

“I would sit in a front row

seat at Harlem Theatre to

enjoy Georgia Douglas

Johnson’s play Blue-Eyed

Black Boy!

Georgia Douglas Johnson

was a poet and one of earlier

African-American playwrights. She was a music

teacher, school principal and activist.”

Geneva A. Stark, Ph.D. , CDP

Diversity, Equity and Poverty Department

“I would interview


James Van Der Zee

and admire his

camera collection.”

Abdul Sharif

Generalist of Diversity

Jefferson County Public


“If I could

spend one day

in Harlem New

York during the


Renaissance I

would…love to

have separate

sit downs with a


owner, a barber, an educator and a

musician. This would give me an

opportunity to see and hear many

points of views as they live in Harlem

and the infusion of black culture into

Americana. This would be amazing!

Beam me down Scotty!

Darryl W. Farmer, Principal

duPont Manual High School

Envision Equity February 2019

Marian Anderson

An acclaimed singer whose performance at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939 helped set the stage for the civil rights

era, Marian Anderson was born on February 27, 1897, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The oldest of three girls, Anderson was just 6 years old when she became a choir member at the Union Baptist

Church, where she earned the nickname "Baby Contralto." Her father, a coal and ice dealer,

supported his daughter's musical interests and, when Anderson was eight, bought her a


With the family unable to afford lessons, the prodigious Anderson taught herself.

At the age of 12, Anderson's father died, leaving her mother to raise her three stillyoung

girls. His death, however, did not slow down Anderson's musical ambitions.

She remained deeply committed to her church and its choir and rehearsed all the

parts (soprano, alto, tenor and bass) in front of her family until she had perfected


Anderson's commitment to her music and her range as a singer so impressed the rest

of her choir that the church banded together and raised enough money, about $500, to

pay for Anderson to train under Giuseppe Boghetti, a respected voice teacher.

By the late 1930s, Anderson's voice had made her famous on both sides of

the Atlantic. In the United States she was invited by President

Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor to perform at the White House,

the first African American ever to receive this honor.

Much of Anderson's life would ultimately see her breaking

down barriers for African-American performers. In

1955, for example, the gifted contralto singer became

the first African American to perform as a member

of the New York Metropolitan Opera.

Over the next several decades of her life,

Anderson's stature only grew. In 1961 she

performed the national anthem at President John F.

Kennedy's inauguration. Two years later, Kennedy

honored the singer with the Presidential Medal of


After retiring from performing in 1965, Anderson set up

her life on her farm in Connecticut. In 1991, the music

world honored her with a Grammy Award for

Lifetime Achievement.

Her final years were spent in Portland, Oregon,

where she'd moved in with her nephew. She died

there of natural causes on April 8, 1993.

Envision Equity February 2019

Palmer Hayden

Born Peyton Cole Hedgeman in Wide Water, Virginia, he was a prolific artist of his era. He depicted African

American life, painting in both oils and watercolors.

As a young man, Hayden studied at the Cooper Union in New York City and also practiced

independent studies at Boothbay Art Colony in Maine. He created one of his first famous

pieces in 1926, a still life called "Fetiche et Fleurs," which won the esteemed Harmon

Foundation’s Gold Award, prompting his patrons to support him so he could live and

study in France.Over the next five years in Paris, Hayden was very productive, trying to

capture elements of Parisian society.

On his return to America, Hayden began working for the United States government. He

worked for the U.S. Treasury Art Project as well as the Depression-era governmentfunded

Works Progress Administration (WPA).

Hayden took his inspiration from the environment around him, focusing on

the African American experience. He tried to capture both rural life in the

South, as well as urban backgrounds in New York City. Many of these urban

paintings were centered in Harlem. The inspiration for "The Janitor Who

Paints" came from Cloyde Boykin, a friend of Palmer's. Boykin was also a

painter who supported himself through janitorial work. Hayden once

said, “I painted it because no one called Cloyde a painter; they called

him a janitor.” Many people consider this painting to be an expression

of the tough times Palmer was having.

Palmer Hayden created a painting series on African-American folk hero

John Henry. This series consisted of 12 works and took 10 years to

complete. John Henry was said to be a strong, heroic man who used a hammer to

create railroads and tunnel through mountains.

His works had other exhibitions, including at the New Jersey State Museum and the

Galerie Bernheim-Jeune.

Palmer Hayden was a great artist who made many visual contributions to this

country. He died on February 18, 1973.

Untitled c1930 by Palmer Hayden

Envision Equity February 2019

Richmond Barthe

Trailblazing artist Richmond Barthé's sculpted works were seminal in that they focused on the lives of his

fellow African Americans. He depicted African Americans at work in the fields of the South (Woman with

Scythe, 1944), African Americans of distinction, and, in Mother and Son (1939), African Americans as

victims of racial violence. He also sculpted images of African warriors and ceremonial participants.

Barthé was born on January 28, 1901, in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, to Richmond Barthé, Sr., and Marie

Clementine Robateau. His father died before Barthé was a year old, and his mother's sewing supported the

family. She later remarried, to William Franklin, an old friend and Barthé's godfather. Franklin worked in

various odd jobs, including as an ice man, delivering ice throughout the rural community. According to

Barthé, he was artistically inclined from a very young age. In A History of African American Artists, he is

quoted as saying, "When I was crawling on the floor, my mother gave me paper and pencil to play with. It

kept me quiet and she did her errands. At six years old I started painting. A lady my mother sewed for gave

me a set of watercolors. By that time I could draw pretty well."

After the Second World War, the world of art began to change drastically,

on abstraction or distorted representations of reality. Barthé was not

interested in these trends and was increasingly forgotten by the artistic

establishment. As a result, Barthé began devoting much of his time

to making portrait busts for wealthy New York clients, especially

people involved in the theater. During and after the war, Barthé

made busts of John Gielgud and Maurice Evans. Later works were

of Lawrence Olivier, Katharine Cornell, and Judith Anderson. In

1946, he was inducted into the National Institute of Arts and

Letters. By the end of the 1940s, Barthé had grown tired of the art

scene in New York (and depressed over his exclusion from it) and

he bought a house in Jamaica on the advice of his doctor who told

him that living in the city was hurting his health.


Finish The Statement

If I could spend one day in Harlem, New York during the

Harlem Renaissance, I would...

“I would sit and listen to

Langston Hughes recite Let

American Be America


Cathy Gibbs - Principal,

Knight Middle School

“If I could spend one day

in Harlem New York

during the Harlem

Renaissance, I would be

on Broadway sitting in

awe of Josephine Baker

singing and dancing.”

De’Nay Speaks, Ed.D.

Assistant Principal

Wellington Elementary


“Love to sit and listen to

Langston Hughes recite his

poems, especially those

that were dedicated to

young minds. Poems, that

even today, are

meaningful and relevant

to our students of JCPS.”

Audwin Helton,

Owner of Spatial Data

Integrations, Inc.

“I would spend the

evening in a jazz club

taking in the beautiful

voice of Billie Holliday.”

Senior Policy &

Development Advisor,

Office of Mayor Greg


“I would start my day by going to the Harlem YMCA which was

known to host workshops which included powerhouse lecturers

like Langston Hughes. Next, I would look to have lunch with

W.E.B. DuBois to discuss his thoughts on the "Talented Tenth"

and "Double Consciousness". To end the evening, I'd stop by

the Savoy Ballroom. I couldn't imagine being in Harlem during

this time and not "cutting a rug" on the maple and mahogany

floor in what many of the era called the "Home of Happy Feet.”

Robert E. Gunn Jr.

Principal, W.E.B. DuBois Academy

Envision Equity February 2019

Paul Robeson

Paul Robeson made his career at a time when second-class citizenship was the norm for all African-Americans,

who were either severely limited in, or totally excluded from, participation in the economic, political, and social

institutions of America.

Robeson was born on April 9, 1898, in Princeton, New Jersey. His father was a runaway slave who fought for the

North in the Civil War, put himself through Lincoln University, received a degree in divinity, and was pastor at a

Presbyterian church in Princeton. Paul's mother was a member of the distinguished Bustill family of

Philadelphia, which included patriots in the Revolutionary War, helped found the Free African Society, and

maintained agents in the Underground Railroad.

At 17 Robeson won a scholarship to Rutgers University, where he was considered an athlete "without equal." He

won an incomparable 12 major letters in 4 years. His academic record was also brilliant. He won first prize (for 4

consecutive years) in every speaking competition at college for which he was eligible, and he was elected to Phi

Beta Kappa. He engaged in social work in the local black community. After he delivered the

commencement class oration, Rutgers honored him as the "perfect

type of college


Robeson graduated from the Columbia University Law School in 1923

and took a job with a New York law firm. In 1921 he


Eslanda Goode Cardozo; they had one child.

Robeson's career as a lawyer ended abruptly

when racial hostility in the firm mounted

against him. He turned to acting as a career,

playing the lead in All God's Chillun Got

Wings (1924) and The Emperor

Jones(1925). He augmented his acting by

singing spirituals. He was the first to give

an entire program of exclusively African-

American songs in concert, and he was one

of the most popular concert singers of his


Envision Equity February 2019

Chick Webb

William Henry Webb (Chick Webb) was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1909. Afflicted at birth with spinal

tuberculosis which left him in poor health for his entire life, Chick was a small, hunchback of a man who

possessed an “unconquerable spirit” and an astounding musical talent. For many jazz fans, Chick remains

arguably the greatest jazz drummer to have ever played the instrument. Yet it was only by a quirk of fate

that Chick even came to play the drums.

The idea of playing the instrument was suggested to him by his doctor as a way to “loosen

stiffened limbs. By saving money earned through delivering

papers, Chick soon secured a drum set. And by the age of

seventeen, Chick was playing in New York nights clubs such

as the Black Bottom and the Paddock Club. These early jobs

were secured for him through the efforts of Duke Ellington who

instantly recognized Chick’s talent. It was Ellington who

encouraged Chick to form a quintet aptly called the

“Harlem Stoppers.” The name was probably derived

from Chick’s own hard driving style on the drums as the

quintet’s leader. Later, this quintet would evolve into one of the

most feared “swing” bands in New York—The Chick Webb


Chick Webb’s already mythical reputation was given even greater

stature when he replaced his longtime vocalist Charles Linton with

a then relatively unknown singer by the name of Ella Fitzgerald.

Jazz legend has it that Ella “snuck” into Chick Webb’s dressing

room in order to convince him to take her into his bed. But

legends notwithstanding, Ella did become Chick’s lead vocalist.

And Ella, called adoringly by fans and musicians, “The First Lady

of Swing,” always acknowledged Chick Webb as her “first and foremost”


up” his

Together, Chick and Ella, would electrify the Swing era of jazz with hits such

as "A-Tisket a Tasket," which was composed by Ella to cheer Chick up while

he was ill. And while this and other great tunes recorded by these artists are wellknown,

Chick’s early work—some say his most impressive solos—was regrettably


captured by recording technology ill suited for Chick’s immense talent. But one of Chick’s hit tunes “Stompin’ at

the Savoy” gives contemporary jazz fans some hint of the power of Chick Webb and his Orchestra.

In 1938, Chick Webb’s health began to fail him. This was mostly due to Chick’s chronic spinal condition and his

insistence that he and his orchestra would only perform at the height of their talents for their fans. Often it was

said that Chick played with such power that he was physically exhausted when he left the bandstand.

In 1939, Chick returned to Baltimore for a major operation. Shortly afterwards, the little giant died on June 16,

1939 with his mother at his side. Chick’s funeral procession was said to have been composed of some eighty cars

and the church where he was eulogized was said to be unable to hold all the mourners.

Finish The Statement

If I could spend one day in Harlem, New York during the

Harlem Renaissance, I would...

“If I could spend one day in Harlem New Your during the Harlem

Renaissance, I would love to catch one of Billie Holiday’s

performances with Louis Armstrong at the Cotton Club, while hanging

out with W.E.B DuBois, discussing the issues of the day.”

Manuel Garr, MSLS, MCP

Software Developer II (Business Intelligence)

JCPS Information Technology

“If I could spend one day in Harlem New York during the

Harlem Renaissance, I would sit down with Langston Hughes

and share my poetry and ask him to write a few jazz rhythms

with me.”

Tracy Barber

Principal, Dunn Elementary

“I would ask Langston Hughes to describe what he thinks is missing

from America based on this stanza in his poem, Let America be

America Again. Together I can see us having a great discussion on

the parallels of 2019 America and the Renaissance era and how even

today the fight continues.

Jasmine Hollins Drinkard

Professional School Counselor

Envision Equity February 2019

Claude McCay

Claude McKay, born Festus Claudius McKay, was a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance, a prominent literary

movement of the 1920s. His work ranged from vernacular verse celebrating peasant life in Jamaica to poems

challenging white authority in America, and from generally straightforward tales of black life in both Jamaica

and America to more philosophically ambitious fiction addressing instinctual/intellectual duality, which McKay

found central to the black individual’s efforts to cope in a racist society. Consistent in his various writings is his

disdain for racism and the sense that bigotry’s implicit stupidity renders its adherents pitiable as well as

loathsome. As Arthur D. Drayton wrote in his essay “Claude McKay’s Human Pity”: “McKay does not seek to

hide his bitterness. But having preserved his vision as poet and his status as a human being, he can transcend

bitterness. In seeing ... the significance of the Negro for mankind as a whole, he is at


protesting as a Negro and uttering a cry for the race of mankind as a member


that race. His human pity was the foundation that made all this possible.”

A London publishing house produced McKay's first books of verse, Songs

of Jamaica and Constab Ballads, in 1912. McKay used award money that

he received from the Jamaican Institute of Arts and Sciences to move to

the United States. He studied at the Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee

University) and Kansas State College for a total of two years. In 1914, he

moved to New York City, settling in Harlem.

No more for you the city's thorny ways,

The ugly corners of the Negro belt;

The miseries and pains of these harsh days

By you will never, never again be felt.

No more, if still you wander, will you meet

With nights of unabating bitterness;

They cannot reach you in your safe retreat,

The city's hate, the city's prejudice!

'Twas sudden--but your menial task is done,

The dawn now breaks on you, the dark is over,

The sea is crossed, the longed-for port is won;

Farewell, oh, fare you well! my friend and lover.

Rest In Peace - Poem by Claude McKay

Envision Equity February 2019

Florence Mills

Florence Mills was born Florence Winfrey on January 25, 1896 (some accounts say 1895), in the Washington,

D.C., area. She became an entertainer as a young child, billed as "Baby Florence" and captivating audiences with

song and dance. She worked in vaudeville and joined a touring company at eight years old before authorities

found out she was underage. Her family eventually moved to Harlem, New York, and in 1910 Mills would form

another vaudeville act—the Mills Sisters—with her siblings Olivia and Maude. Mills would later meet and wed

Ulysses S. Thompson, from the troupe the Tennessee Ten, in 1923.

In 1921, Mills was hired to replace Gertrude Saunders in the Eubie

Blake and Noble Sissleproduction Shuffle Along, which was a

trailblazing musical with an all African-American creative team.

The Off-Broadway show was a hit, and Mills became renowned for

her performances, highlighted by the tune "I’m Craving for That

Kind of Love."

Mills earned a reputation for her wondrous high-pitched voice,

unique dance movements and comedic timing that allowed her

to become an unparalleled force during the Harlem

Renaissance. With Mills quite aware of the racial dynamics of

the day and wishing to make a difference, she also served as an

icon for African-American performers and audiences of all


Though Shuffle Along was a big hit, Mills made her actual

Broadway debut in 1922 in the show Plantation Revue with the role

of Gypsy Blues. The musical was eventually renamed From Dixie to

Broadway and played in England before being launched again on the

New York stage in October 1924. Then, in 1926, Mills starred in the

musical Blackbirds, which showcased the song she was most associated

with—"I’m a Little Blackbird Looking for a Bluebird." The show toured

internationally as well, and Mills became a massive, sought-after star in


Envision Equity February 2019

Fats Waller

Thomas Wright "Fats" Waller was born on May 21, 1904, in New York City. He learned to play piano at the age

of 6, and within a few years was also learning the reed organ, string bass and violin. After dropping out of school

at around age 15, he became an organist at the Lincoln Theatre in Harlem.

Waller's father, Edward, a baptist minister, was hopeful that his son would follow a religious calling instead of a

career in jazz. However, the path to music became inevitable following the death of Waller's mother, Adeline, in

1920. Waller moved in with the family of pianist Russell B.T. Brooks, who introduced the youngster to James P.

Johnson, founder of the stride school of jazz piano.

Waller made his recording debut in 1922 for Okeh Records with the solo efforts "Muscle Shoals Blues" and

"Binningham Blues." Shortly afterward, he released "Squeeze Me," an important early work that established his

bona fides as a songwriter.

Waller continued to play organ at the Lincoln Theatre while also taking engagements at theaters in Philadelphia

and Chicago. In addition, he often starred at Harlem's famous "rent parties," where he and his fellow musicians

would essentially stage concerts in friends' homes. Larger than life with his sheer size and magnetic

personality, Waller was known to enjoy alcohol

and female attention in abundance.

Waller became more involved with writing

and performing for revues in the late

1920s, starting with Keep Shufflin' in 1927. He forged a strong collaborative

partnership with Andy Razaf, with whom

he wrote two of his most famous stage

songs, "Honeysuckle Rose" and "Ain't

Misbehavin'." During this time, Waller

also recorded such standards as "Handful

of Keys" and "Valentine Stomp" as a

soloist, and "The Minor Drag" and

"Harlem Fuss" as leader of Fats Waller

and His Buddies.

Envision Equity February

Gladys Bentley

Gladys Bentley (stage name, Bobbie Minton) was a Harlem Renaissance blues singer and cross dresser. She was

one of the most well-known and financially successful black women in the United States in the 1920s

and 1930s. She was a pioneer in pushing the envelope of gender, sexuality, class, and race

with parody and exaggeration, personally and professionally.

The eldest of four children, Bentley was born on August 12, 1907 in Philadelphia,

Pennsylvania to George L. Bentley from the U.S. and Mary (Mote) Bentley from Trinidad.

Bentley reported wearing her three younger brothers’ suits to school when growing up. Her

parents tried to “cure” Bentley by taking her to numerous doctors. The family struggled


A talented pianist and blues singer, she ran away to New York City at the age of

sixteen. From early on, Bentley overtly included sexuality in her act with her

song content, stage moves, and attire. She often dressed as a man in her

signature black-and-white tuxedo. In fact, she became the most prominent

mannish lesbian of the Harlem Renaissance. A large, 250-pound woman, her

deep voice appealed to straight, gay, black, and white audiences.

Bentley began singing at rent parties and buffet flats. She moved to speakeasies

and night clubs in Jungle Alley, the center of Harlem’s sporting life. Okeh Race

Records released eight singles of her music between 1928 and 1929. She had her

own weekly radio program the following year. By 1933, Bentley headlined in

nightclubs and theatres such as The Cotton Club and The Apollo. She created her

own musical revue with a chorus of eight male dancers in drag, the primary

attraction at the well-known Ubangi Club, 1934-1937.

In Bentley’s heyday of the 1930s, she owned a Park Avenue apartment with

servants and other accoutrements of wealth. Bentley claimed that she and her

white female lover went through a civil union in New Jersey. With the repeal of

Prohibition, her popularity and public tolerance of openly gay persons waned. Bentley

moved to Los Angeles to live with her mother. Her success picked up again during World

War II with the expansion of gay bars on the West Coast. She recorded in 1945 for the

Excelsior label.

Envision Equity February 2019

William Grant Stills

William Grant Still was born on May 11, 1895, in Woodville, Mississippi. After his father passed away when he was

a baby, his mother moved the family to live with Still's grandmother in Little Rock, Arkansas. His childhood home

was filled with the sounds of his grandmother singing spirituals.

In 1911, Still enrolled in Wilberforce University in Ohio, where he began to study medicine. He left the college

before graduating and turned his attention to music, studying composition at Ohio's Oberlin Conservatory of

Music. He also spent time learning from George Whitefield Chadwick at the New England Conservatory of Music

in Boston; later, he was instructed by Edgar Varèse.

Still gained practical experience arranging band music for Paul Whiteman, W.C. Handy and Artie Shaw. His

notable early orchestral compositions include 1924's Darker America and 1926's From the Black Belt. He was

honored with Guggenheim fellowships in both 1934 and 1935.

In 1931, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra gave the debut

performance of Still's Afro-American Symphony; it was the first

time that a symphony composed by an African American had

been played by a major orchestra. In 1936, Still became the

first African American to conduct a noted American

orchestra when he led the Los Angeles Philharmonic at

the Hollywood Bowl.

Many of Still's musical creations melded jazz with more

traditional orchestral melodies. They also incorporated

his passionate interest in African music, as well as his

societal concerns about African Americans in the

United States. He created 1930's Sahdji, a ballet with

an African backdrop; his acclaimed 1937 ballet, Lenox

Avenue, takes place in Harlem.

After relocating to Los Angeles in 1939, Still's success

continued. In 1949, Troubled Island, an opera about the

1791 Haitian slave uprising, became the first full-length

work written by an African American to be produced by a

well-known opera company. In 1981, another of his

operas, A Bayou Legend, was performed on national

television, a first for an African American.

Musical Success and Legacy

Still had a long and fruitful career as a composer, arranger and

conductor. The multiple symphonies, ballets and operas that he

produced over the years earned him the nickname "Dean of Afro-

American Composers." His compositions were performed across

the world, including by the New York Philharmonic, the London

Symphony and the Tokyo Philharmonic.



Lesson Plan

Teach your students about the Harlem Renaissance with this lesson. Before

beginning the lesson, have students watch this informative video that gives

historical background and outlines key figures of the Harlem Renaissance.

Follow up with these engaging activities that deepen concepts.


English, Social Studies, Art

Estimated Time

Two 45 or 60 minute class periods with several nights of homework (or four to five class periods if no

homework is assigned)

Grade Level

7 – 12


Students will learn about the social, cultural and political circumstances which gave rise to the

Harlem Renaissance. They will also learn about the influences that inspired the work of the Harlem

Renaissance’s artists and musicians. Finally, students will be given several opportunities to create

their own Harlem Renaissance inspired work.


The Harlem Renaissance was a significant social and cultural movement which took place in the

1920s and 1930s following the Great Migration during which thousands of Africa-Americans left the

south and moved north and west.

The result was the flourishing of art, music and literature that reflected the history and experience of

the African-American. The artistic, literary and musical contributions of Harlem Renaissance artists

continue to serve as an inspiration for today’s artists.


Opening Activity

Discuss the social, political and economic climate of America in the 1920s and 1930s.

• Ask students to compare and contrast the circumstances of African-Americans and

whites at this time.

• Focus on what accounted for the differences in people’s experiences based on their


• Ask students to consider what factors influenced the Great Migration of African

Americans from the South to the North and Midwest.

• Ask students why they think the arts are an effective means through which

individuals and groups can express their history, their frustrations and their hopes

for the future. Ask them to give contemporary examples.

Activity 1

To set the stage, read “Harlem” by Walter Dean Myers to students and ask them to

visualize the story as you are reading. As you read, you may show students a sideshow

of Christopher Myers’ illustrations of the poem.

Give students a copy of the poem and ask them to underline all of the places and

locations mentioned in it. Have students read the poem a third and final time and highlight

or circle all of the people mentioned. Ask students why they think Harlem became a social

and cultural center for African-Americans in the 1920s and 1930s. Conduct a primary

document analysis which will allow students to get a sense of Choose selections from

Alain Locke’s “The New Negro”, poems by Langston Hughes (“Cultural Exchange”,

“Democracy”, “Freedom’s Plow”) James Weldon Johnson (“Lift Every Voice and Sing”) and

Countee Cullen (“Yet Do I Marvel” and “Heritage”) or excerpts from the writings of Zora

Neale Hurston. Have student work either individually or in small groups to answer the

following questions about the documents: Who is the intended audience? What is the

subject matter? How does this reflect the themes of the Harlem Renaissance?

Once the analysis is complete, have students return to a large group and share their

findings. Focus on the common themes throughout the different documents.

Have students write a found poem in which they alternate phrases or lines from Harlem

Renaissance poems with original lines of their own. Host a poetry slam during which

students will read their found poems aloud.

Activity 2

Introduce students to the art of Harlem Renaissance painters. Begin by viewing Harlem at

the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.

Be sure to highlight the work of Jacob Lawrence (especially his Migration series), Aaron

Douglas and Romare Bearden. Ask students to analyze the artists’ respective styles and

subject matter. Compare and contrast their work in terms of themes.

Have students create an original collage or work of art that mimics the style of one of these

Harlem Renaissance artists. The subject matter should be based on a specific individual who

was prominent during the era.

Students will curate their own exhibit of Harlem Renaissance inspired art and poetry in

the style of the exhibit “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing”. Display student work

either in the classroom or the hallway. Be sure to have the student artists and writers include a

brief artist’s statement with their work.

Activity 3

Students will write an essay entitled “The Lasting Legacy of the Harlem Renaissance” in which they

focus on one aspect of the era – poetry, jazz, visual art, or music – and how it influences

contemporary artists. In the interest of time, this may also be assigned as homework.

Extension Activities

• Ask students to research one type of performance that took place at the Apollo Theater.

Options include comedy, dance, and many types of music including jazz, hip-hop, swing, and

rock. Have students create a timeline of performances of that genre and then highlight a

performer of their choosing in a short biographical essay.

• Performing arts educators may consider having students recreate a famous Apollo Theater

performance or having students create an original performance piece inspired by one of the

Apollo’s legendary performances. Visual arts educators may have students create a work of

art in the style of one of the great Harlem Renaissance artists such as Jacob Lawrence,

Romare Bearden or Aaron Douglas.

• Host a tribute to the Apollo during which students can recite their original poems or poems

they have studied as part of this lesson, display their artwork, sing songs popularized at the

Apollo or perform live music made famous by Harlem Renaissance musicians.



Lesson Plan

Intermediate/ Upper Primary (Grades 3,4,5) Resources for The Harlem


Lesson Plan created by Kadia Turner—JCPS Diversity, Equity, and Poverty Programs

Resource Teacher

Optional ELA Connection: RF.5.4, RF.4.4, RF.3.4, L5.5,L.4.5,L.3.5

RECITATION: Weekly Choral Reading (fluency): MY PEOPLE, by Langston Hughes Focus on


Day 1 :Play video “My People” by Langston Hughes. Introduce poet Langston Hughes , Use turn

and talk to discuss metaphors, theme. Provide copies for students, and create a class anchor chart.

Choral read poem, discuss prosody, Choral read to improve prosody

Day 2: Review prosody, echo read

Day 3: Review prosody, antiphonal reading

Day 4: Review prosody partner read (partners choose echo, antiphonal, or choral)

Day 5: Review prosody, give students a chance to perform (exhibit prosody), final choral read

ELA Lesson: Harlem Renaissance

RL.5.1, RL4.1, RL3.1, RL.5.2, RL.4.2, RL.3.2, RL.5.9, RL.4.9, RL.3.9, L5.5,L.4.5,L.3.5, SL.5.1, SL.

4.1, SL.3.1

Ignite (Get their Attention)

T: Who has heard the songs Boo’d Up by Ella Mai, or In My Feelings (KeKe Are You Riding) by

Drake? Give students a chance to turn and talk . As a class agree on possible themes for these

works (relationships, love, romantic confusion etc.) Today we will go back in history and look at the

lyrics of two songs from artists of the Harlem Renaissance. I want you to consider how these songs

are similar to Boo’d Up or In My Feelings.

Provide partners with the lyrics to 2 notable songs from the Harlem Renaissance with a love theme

( background music is appropriate)

Ain’t Misbehavin’ Fats Waller,

“Gulf Coast Blues”- Bessie Smith

T: How are these lyrics similar to songs of today like Boo’d Up by Ella Mai or In My Feelings by


Provide students with a comparison graphic organizer such as a “Box and T” or have them draw

one in their notebooks. Allow students to explore the similarities and differences form the songs

they are familiar with and songs of the Harlem Renaissance. (Note if students are not familiar w/

Boo’d Up or In My

Feelings choose

current songs of

modern vernacular

that are relevant to

your class). Bring

students to a circle to

share their findings.

S: Same: about

feelings, relationships,

love,*style of language

is natural to the way

they talk

S: Different:Gulf

Coast/ sad, Boo’d Up/

In My feelings are


T: What if I told you

Drake and Ella have Fats Waller, Bessie Smith and other artists of the Harlem Renaissance to

thank for music today? Point out the choice of expression in their natural way of speaking Boo=

partner/ boyfriend or girlfriend or “want ya”, “need ya” down for you”. The Harlem Renaissance

made a lasting impression on the way black people express themselves in art, writing, music, and

politically. We will learn more about the Harlem Renaissance in Social St.

Exit Slip: Make a comparison statement about the theme between a historical song and a

modern song. Please give evidence from the text. You may use your graphic organizer and

the examples we discussed today or songs of your own choice.Sentence stems may be

provided as a scaffold. rubric?

Closing:Choose an exemplar work to share and review key points with the class. Recite “My

People” by Langston Hughes

Social Studies lesson adapted from The Social and Cultural Context of A Period: The New

Negro and the Harlem Renaissance

Standards:SS-05-5.1.1, SS-05-5.2.4, W.5.7, W.4.7, W.3.7, SL.5.1, SL.4.1, SL.3.

Multimedia Resources

Finding Their Voice

The New Negro

The Negro Speaks of Rivers




Lesson Plan

Lesson Plan created by Donna Lawson—JCPS Diversity, Equity, and

Poverty Programs Resource Teacher


Social Studies

Grade Level:


Estimated time:

50-minute class periods: 5


90-minute block schedule: 3



Students will investigate and

evaluate the social, cultural,

economic, artistic, literary, and

political aspects and

contributions of the Harlem

Renaissance period.


Computer/Internet access

Collection (writings, art, fashion, music, economic information, etc) from the Harlem Renaissance


Map of New York city during the period

Presentation capabilities (Smartboard, projector, screen)

Presentation supplies (paper, poster board, markers, pens, pencils)


Migration, Harlem, Renaissance, integration, Jim Crow laws, cultural significance, implications


SS-HS-1.1.2 Students will explain and give examples of how democratic governments preserve and

protect the rights and liberties of their constituents through different sources (e.g.,U.N. Charter,

Declaration of the Rights of Man, U.N. Declaration of Human Rights, U.S. Constitution). DOK 2

SS-HS-1.3.2 Students will explain how the rights of an individual (e.g., Freedom of Information Act,

privacy) may, at times, be in conflict with the responsibility of the government to protect the

"common good" (e.g., homeland security issues, environmental regulations, censorship, search and

seizure). DOK 2

SS-HS-2.1.1 Students will explain how belief systems, knowledge, technology and behavior

patterns define cultures and help to explain historical perspectives and events in the modern world

(1500 A.D. to present) and United States (Reconstruction to present). DOK 2

SS-HS-2.2.1 Students will explain how various human needs are met through interaction in and

among social institutions (e.g., family, religion, education, government, economy) in the modern

world (1500 A.D. to present) and the United States (Reconstruction to present)

SS-HS-2.3.1 Students will explain the reasons why conflict and competition (e.g., violence, a

difference of opinion, stereotypes, prejudice, discrimination, genocide) may develop as cultures

emerge in the modern world (1500 A.D. to present) and the United States (Reconstruction to

present). DOK 2

SS-HS-2.3.2 Students will explain and give examples of how compromise and cooperation are

characteristics that influence interaction (e.g., peace studies, treaties, conflict resolution) in the

modern world (1500 A.D. to present) and the United States (Reconstruction to present). DOK 2

SS-HS-4.1.3 Students will use geographic tools (e.g., maps, globes, photographs, models, satellite

images) to interpret the reasoning patterns (e.g., available transportation, the location of resources

and markets, individual preference, centralization versus dispersion) on which the location and

distribution of Earth's human features are based.

SS-HS-4.2.1 Students will interpret how places and regions serve as meaningful symbols for

individuals and societies (e.g., Jerusalem, Vietnam Memorial, Ellis Island, the Appalachian region).

SS-HS-4.2.3 Students will explain how people can develop stereotypes about places and regions

(e.g., all cities are dangerous and dirty; rural areas are poor)

SS-HS-5.1.1 Students will use a variety of tools (e.g., primary and secondary sources, data,

artifacts) to analyze perceptions and perspectives (e.g., gender, race, region, ethnic group,

nationality, age, economic status, religion, politics, geographic factors) of people and historical

events in the modern world (1500 A.D. to present) and United States History (Reconstruction to

present). DOK 3

SS-HS-5.1.2 Students will analyze how history is a series of connected events shaped by multiple

cause-and-effect relationships, tying past to present. DOK 3

SS-HS-5.2.4 Students will explain and evaluate the impact of significant social, political and

economic changes during the Progressive Movement (e.g., industrial capitalism, urbanization,

political corruption, initiation of reforms), World War I (e.g., imperialism to isolationism,

nationalism) and the Twenties (e.g., economic prosperity, consumerism, women’s suffrage). DOK3

Learning Targets:

• I can identify key people and events that contributed to the Harlem Renaissance. (HS-2.1.1,

HS-2.2.1, HS-2.3.2, HS-5.1.1, HS-5.2.4)

• I can evaluate the impact of African Americans in Harlem on the environment and culture of the

area. (HS-2.1.1, HS-2.2.1, HS-2.3.1, HS-2.3.2, HS-4.1.3, HS-4.2.1, HS-4.2.3, HS-5.1.1, HS-5.1.2,


• I can analyze how people challenged laws and social norms in the 1920s. (HS-1.2.2, HS-1.3.2,

HS-2.1.1, HS-2.2.1, HS-2.3.1, HS-2.3.2, HS-5.1.1, HS-5.1.2, HS-5.2.4)

Opening Activity:

Identify and describe your favorite song, art, fashion, story, or play. Explain why it is significant to

you. What meaning or impact does it have on you?


As a class, watch the video below about the Harlem Renaissance


Discuss as a group the connection between opening activity responses and the video.

Students will:

Choose a topic from the Harlem Renaissance: fashion, music, economy, literature, art, politics

(Teacher may have students choose their top two topic preferences and assign topics to ensure

each is represented during presentations.)

Work individually or in groups

Choose the method of presentation: PowerPoint, play, presentation board, diorama, storytelling,


• Address the following regarding the chosen Harlem Renaissance topic:

• Describe the cultural significance and long term implications of your topic.

• How were laws or societal norms changed or challenged with regards to your topic?

• How was your topic similar or different in past eras? In future eras?


Choose another culture. How was your topic in that culture similar or different during that time?

Describe an empowerment or awakening that occurred in this culture. How was it similar? How

was it different?


Student presentations and note-taking using attached template.


Editors, History.com. “Harlem Renaissance.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 30 May

2012, www.history.com/topics/roaring-twenties/the-harlem-renaissance-video.

Additional Harlem Renaissance Resources for Educators

Middle School:








Socio-economic/Affrilachian Poets:


Art (All levels):




A Great Day in Harlem.

Photograph by Art Kane,

August 12, 1958.

Editor—Catherine Collesano

Editor, Photo Contributor—Abdul Sharif


Envision Equity is a publication of the JCPS Department of Diversity, Equity, and Poverty Programs. All submissions should

be sent to Catherine Collesano at catherine.collesano@jefferson.kyschools.us or Abdul Sharif at

abdul.sharif2@jefferson.kyschools.us. If you are interested in becoming a subscriber or a contributor to Envision Equity,

please contact one of the editors at the above email address.


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