The Harlem Renaissance Commonlit Answers

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  • 8th Grade
  • Lexile: 1170

Source: The Harlem Renaissance by Jessica McBirney

Assessment Answers

QuestionAnswer
PART A: Which statement best identifies the central idea of the text?During the Harlem Renaissance, African Americans used art to convey their experiences and create a united cultural identity.
PART B: Which quotation from the text best supports the answer to Part A?“it was a chance for African American artists to use their art to express pride in their identities and share their experiences.” (Paragraph 6)
How did the Great Migration contribute to the development of the Harlem Renaissance?Many African Americans left the South to forge a new path for themselves in the North, leading to the development of the Harlem Renaissance.
Which quotation from the text best describes African Americans’ experiences in the South in the 1800s and 1900s?“segregation, racist attitudes, and violence prevented African Americans from improving their circumstances.” (Paragraph 2)

How does the inclusion of details about Harlem Renaissance artists contribute to the development of ideas in the text?

The inclusion of details about Harlem Renaissance artists contributes to the development of ideas in the text by:

  1. Illustrating the Movement’s Diversity and Richness: By mentioning various artists, musicians, and writers, the text showcases the wide range of talents and artistic expressions that defined the Harlem Renaissance. This diversity underlines the movement’s significance as a multifaceted cultural explosion rather than a singular or monolithic artistic trend.
  2. Highlighting the Role of Art in Social Change: Details about the artists and their works demonstrate how art was used as a tool for social commentary and change. Through their creative expressions, these artists challenged racial stereotypes, promoted African American pride, and fostered a greater understanding of the African American experience among wider audiences.
  3. Personalizing the Movement: By bringing attention to individual artists and their contributions, the text personalizes the Harlem Renaissance, making it more relatable and vivid to the reader. Learning about the personal stories and artistic achievements of figures like Langston Hughes, Duke Ellington, and others adds depth to the reader’s understanding of the period and its impact.
  4. Emphasizing the Movement’s Legacy: Discussing specific artists and their works underscores the lasting impact of the Harlem Renaissance on American culture and society. It highlights how the movement not only celebrated African American culture at the time but also laid the groundwork for future generations of artists and civil rights activists.
  5. Supporting the Central Theme: The mention of Harlem Renaissance artists supports the text’s central theme of using art to create a united cultural identity and convey experiences. By detailing how artists expressed pride in their identities and shared their experiences through their work, the text reinforces the idea that the Harlem Renaissance was a pivotal moment in the formation of a shared African American cultural heritage.

These details enrich the narrative by demonstrating the Harlem Renaissance’s complexity, its role in advancing social progress, and its enduring influence on American culture, all while providing concrete examples that anchor the movement’s broader themes and significance.

Discussion Answers

How can art be a form of protest? Why was art a successful means for African Americans to challenge discrimination and offensive stereotypes during this time?

Art can be a form of protest in several profound ways, and its use by African Americans during the Harlem Renaissance to challenge discrimination and offensive stereotypes exemplifies its power and success as a means of social and political commentary.

Here’s how art serves as a potent form of protest and why it was particularly effective during this period:

Art as a Medium for Expressing Dissent and Resilience:

  • Communicates Complex Ideas Visually and Emotionally: Art transcends language barriers and can communicate complex ideas, emotions, and experiences directly to the viewer. For African Americans during the Harlem Renaissance, art provided a way to express dissent against racial injustices and the resilience of their communities in the face of these adversities.
  • Raises Awareness and Provokes Thought: Through depicting their realities, artists can raise awareness about specific social issues and injustices, prompting viewers to reflect on these problems and consider the need for change. During the Harlem Renaissance, artworks, literature, and performances highlighted the richness of African American culture, directly challenging the racist stereotypes and narratives prevalent in society at the time.

Success of Art in Challenging Discrimination and Stereotypes:

  • Creating a New Narrative: By showcasing the talents, intelligence, and creativity of African Americans, the art of the Harlem Renaissance challenged and began to dismantle the offensive stereotypes that had marginalized Black people in America. This period saw the emergence of a “New Negro” identity, characterized by assertiveness and pride in Black heritage, which was in stark contrast to the submissive and caricatured portrayals in mainstream culture.
  • Building a Shared Cultural Identity: Art played a crucial role in forging a shared cultural identity among African Americans. By celebrating African American traditions, history, and experiences, artists helped to cultivate a sense of pride and unity within the community. This collective identity was crucial for the social cohesion needed to resist and protest against racial discrimination.
  • Influencing Public Opinion and Policy: The Harlem Renaissance brought African American culture into the broader American consciousness, challenging the status quo and influencing public opinion about race, culture, and civil rights. The widespread appreciation of this art and culture helped to slowly shift perceptions and laid the groundwork for the civil rights movements to follow.

Broader Impact

  • Global Reach and Solidarity: The influence of the Harlem Renaissance extended beyond the United States, inspiring Black artists and writers around the world. This global reach demonstrated the universal appeal and power of art as a form of protest, fostering a sense of solidarity and shared struggle against oppression.
  • Legacy and Inspiration for Future Generations: The success of art as a form of protest during the Harlem Renaissance has left a lasting legacy, inspiring future generations of artists and activists to use their creative talents as tools for social change.

In the context of the text, how has America changed over time? How does the text explore ways in which America has changed since the abolition of slavery? How did the accomplishments of the Harlem Renaissance allow future change to take place?

The text reflects on the transformative period of the Harlem Renaissance within the broader context of America’s evolution, particularly in terms of racial attitudes, cultural recognition, and the social status of African Americans since the abolition of slavery.

Here’s how America has changed over time as depicted in the text, and the role of the Harlem Renaissance in facilitating future change:

America’s Change Over Time:

  • Post-Abolition America: Following the abolition of slavery in 1865, the text describes a period where African Americans faced systemic racism, segregation, and violence, especially in the South. Despite the formal end of slavery, African Americans continued to live under oppressive conditions, with little improvement in their rights or social standing for decades.
  • The Great Migration: The text outlines a significant shift with the onset of the Great Migration in the early 1900s, as African Americans moved from the South to Northern cities in search of better opportunities and to escape the entrenched racism of the South. This movement was both a symptom of the ongoing struggles in the South and a catalyst for cultural and societal changes in the North.

Exploration of Changes Since the Abolition of Slavery:

  • Economic and Social Mobility: The text explores the economic and social motivations behind the Great Migration, highlighting how African Americans sought not only better employment but also a community where they could express their cultural identity more freely, as seen in Harlem.
  • Cultural Impact: It delves into the cultural explosion of the Harlem Renaissance, showcasing how African Americans used art, literature, and music to challenge stereotypes, assert their identities, and gain recognition for their contributions to American culture.

Accomplishments of the Harlem Renaissance and Future Change:

  • Cultural Recognition: The Harlem Renaissance played a crucial role in elevating African American culture to a national and even international platform. It challenged the prevailing racial prejudices by showcasing African Americans’ intellectual and artistic achievements.
  • Identity and Pride: By fostering a sense of pride and a collective identity among African Americans, the Harlem Renaissance helped solidify the community’s self-perception as a vibrant and integral part of American society, setting the stage for the Civil Rights Movement.
  • Civil Rights Movement: The text suggests that the Harlem Renaissance laid important groundwork for the Civil Rights Movement. By affirming the value and dignity of African American life and culture, the Renaissance contributed to a societal shift that would eventually support the fight for civil rights and equality.

The text underscores that the changes in America since the abolition of slavery, mainly through the Harlem Renaissance lens, involved shifts in geographical and economic conditions for African Americans and profound cultural and societal transformations.

The accomplishments of the Harlem Renaissance artists, writers, and musicians were instrumental in redefining African American identity and paved the way for future generations to continue the struggle for equality and recognition.

The legacy of the Harlem Renaissance is seen as a foundational element in the broader narrative of America’s ongoing journey towards a more inclusive and equitable society.


In the context of the text, how are communities formed? How did the Harlem Renaissance contribute to the establishment of an African American culture and identity in America? How do you think this community benefited the Civil Rights Movement decades later?

In the context of the text, communities are formed through shared experiences, cultural expressions, and collective movements towards common goals. The Harlem Renaissance played a pivotal role in forming an African American community by providing a space for cultural, artistic, and intellectual expression rooted in African American identity and experiences.

Here’s a closer look at how this process unfolded and its impact on the Civil Rights Movement:

Formation of Communities

  • Shared Experiences: The Great Migration was a significant factor in forming communities. African Americans moved en masse from the South to the North, bringing with them shared experiences of oppression and hopes for a better life. This migration created densely populated African American neighborhoods like Harlem, which became cultural and social exchange centers.
  • Cultural Expressions: The Harlem Renaissance allowed African Americans to express their cultural identity through art, music, literature, and performances. These expressions provided a means of solidarity and communication within the community, celebrating African American heritage and experiences.

Contribution to African American Culture and Identity:

  • Cultural Identity: The Harlem Renaissance was instrumental in forging a new cultural identity for African Americans, one that was rooted in pride, resilience, and a rich heritage. It challenged the prevailing racial stereotypes by showcasing the depth and diversity of African American culture.
  • National Recognition: By gaining national and international recognition, the Harlem Renaissance helped to position African American culture as an integral part of American culture, thereby fostering a sense of belonging and validation among the African American community.

Benefits to the Civil Rights Movement:

  • Foundation for Activism: The Harlem Renaissance laid a cultural and intellectual foundation for the Civil Rights Movement. The pride and sense of identity that emerged from the Renaissance empowered African Americans to demand their rights and equality.
  • Inspirational Legacy: The artists and intellectuals of the Harlem Renaissance inspired future generations of activists and leaders. The movement’s emphasis on social justice, equality, and the power of art as a tool for change resonated with Civil Rights leaders.
  • Community Mobilization: The networks and communities that were strengthened during the Harlem Renaissance provided essential organizational support for the Civil Rights Movement. The churches, social clubs, and other institutions that played central roles in the Harlem Renaissance also became key players in the Civil Rights era.
  • Cultural Strategy: Just as Harlem Renaissance artists used culture as a means to assert identity and challenge stereotypes, the Civil Rights Movement employed cultural expressions—such as freedom songs, visual art, and public speeches—as powerful tools for advocacy and mobilization.

The Harlem Renaissance contributed to the establishment of a distinct African American culture and identity by creating a shared space for expression and recognition. This, in turn, nurtured a sense of community and pride that became foundational to the Civil Rights Movement.

The legacy of the Harlem Renaissance, with its emphasis on cultural affirmation and social justice, provided both inspiration and a framework for the Civil Rights activists who followed, illustrating the enduring power of cultural movements in effecting social change.

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Avery L. Mitchell
Avery L. Mitchell
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Avery L. Mitchell is a literary enthusiast with a passion for classic literature and its enduring themes. Holding a Master's degree in English Literature from the University of Eldenbridge, Avery has spent over a decade analyzing and writing about timeless literary works. With a keen eye for detail and a deep appreciation for storytelling, Avery brings stories to life with insightful commentary and engaging narratives. When not immersed in books, Avery enjoys hiking, photography, and exploring hidden cafes in her hometown of Asheville, North Carolina.




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