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Harlem Renaissance Poetry Analysis

As we explore the historical context of Their Eyes Were Watching God, we turn our eye to poetry, another medium important to helping us understand the era of the novel’s release and its many conflicts. For this assignment, you will choose one of the poems identified below and write about the poet and the text in their contribution to and expression of the ideas of the Harlem Renaissance.

It is expected that you:

  • Provide your own personal analysis of the work before you have done research.

    • Read the poem 2-3 times yourself, before doing any research. In your response, make this its own section so I can see how you initially responded.

    • What images or ideas stand out, what do you think they mean, and why do you think this was an important work during the Harlem Renaissance? What idea(s) do you think this is trying to convey?

  • Research information that provides context to the creation of the work. Who was the creator and why were they significant? What ideas did the creator tend to focus on, and how did they generally express them? What was happening at the time this poem was written/published?

  • You might also consider how the creator’s work was received at the time. Was it appreciated? Was it criticized?

  • Quote and accurately cite your research. If it didn’t come from your own analysis, it should have a citation nearby


Choose one of the following works:

  • “To Usward,” Gwendolyn B. Bennett

  • “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” James Weldon Johnson

  • “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” Langston Hughes

  • “To The White Fiends,” Claude McKay

Goal is to demonstrate an understanding of the role poetry played in expressing the culture that led to and developed as a result of the Harlem Renaissance.

Exemplary Work will include specific details from credible, accurately cited sources, thoughtfully make connections between the poem and the Harlem Renaissance movement, and include very few errors in otherwise highly competent writing.

Earlier Event: April 1
Reading Log
Later Event: April 15
Harlem Renaissance Art Analysis