Learning Adventures in Citizenship
Episode 5Topic 2
Being Heard
Being Heard
Bessie Smith
Bessie Smith
(Photo: Courtesy of Culver Pictures.)

In NEW YORK: A DOCUMENTARY FILM, you have learned about some of the heroes of the Harlem Renaissance, such as Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and James Weldon Johnson. Through their writing, these creative individuals were able to capture the African-American experience in the U.S. during the 20s and 30s. Through the power of their poems, songs, and stories, they were able to express their opinions about the struggle against prejudice and oppression. Their work also forged a sense of racial pride among African Americans.

There are two alternatives for this activity:


Look through the Harlem Live Web site, written by kids and teenagers living in Harlem today.

Off the Head: Words of Harlem Live

In this site, find a poem or story that you enjoy or admire. What details about the piece you selected do you especially like? Why? If you were to meet the person who wrote this piece, what do you think you might talk about?


As an alternative activity, find a person or group in your community that uses artistic expression (either through writing or art) as a way to share personal reactions to events or causes in your community. If possible, see if you can arrange for this person or group to visit your class and present their work.