The Harlem Renaissance

The 2015 weeklong summer institute on the literature, art, and music of “The Harlem Renaissance,” was successfully completed July 12-17, 2015, at the College of Idaho in Caldwell.  Thirty-eight teachers attended.

This interdisciplinary teacher institute explored the explosion of African-American culture in New York City during the 1920s and 1930s that reverberated throughout American culture in literature, art, music, theater, and more during the 20th century.  Participating teachers studied works by novelist Zora Neale Hurston, poets James Weldon Johnson and Langston Hughes, jazz musicians Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Jelly Roll Morton, Louie Armstrong, artist Augusta Savage, performer Josephine Baker, and learn about some of the key social political ideas of the time.

The Harlem Renaissance promoted a new sense of racial consciousness, ethnic pride, black identity, and was more than simply an artistic movement. The Renaissance inspired social and political activism that eventually flowered in the civil rights movement. The Harlem Renaissance helped America redefine how they saw African-Americans, as the Great Migration brought many more African Americans to relocate from the rural south to the urban north, expanding economic horizons, and inspiring thoughts of a more equal, cosmopolitan, and intellectual African American community of cultural innovators.  While inspiring new cultural innovations, the Harlem Renaissance at the same time fueled a rediscovery of African American folklore traditions, bolstering a greater sense of heritage and identity.  Participants received a copy of Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Manby James Weldon Johnson, and an electronic compilation of essays and supplemental readings.

Presenting scholars included Florida International University English Professor Heather Russell (Miami), a Zora Neale Hurston scholar, Grammy Museum Director and music historian Robert Santelli (Los Angeles), and Valerie Boyd, University of Georgia, Athens.  Evening presentations opened to the public were presented by Bob Devin Jones, Langston Hughes Chautauquan and scholar, and Phyllis McEwen, Zora Neale Hurston Chautauquan and scholar.  Joycelyn Moody, University of Texas, San Antonio, presented the keynote.

Evaluations were positive.  Sample Comments:



I love these courses so much that I schedule my summers around them.  These classes are Idaho education’s best kept secrets.  There should be hundreds of teachers applying each year.  Best classes in the state by far!


IHC Teacher Institutes never fail to bring the absolute best scholars!


The scholars who facilitated the institute were powerful and really caused me to stop and think about my own conception of the era and created a whole new conceptual lens through which to meaningfully and more fully teach the 1920’s.


This is by far the BEST training I have ever attended.  I have so much to take back to my classroom!


This was a singularly extraordinary experience!  I am so grateful for the scholars who shared their expertise and the colleagues who brought their curious minds.  I feel inspired and cannot wait to share my renewed passion with my students and community.


I really enjoyed my time here this week.  It is chock full of intellectually stimulating conversation, and collaboration with other educators across the state is amazing!  Thank you so much!


I enjoyed the diversity of our group.  I am glad this is a stay, eat, play together conference because much of my learning came after the sessions as we interacted.  My cup has been filled and my love of learning has been rekindled.


This institute filled my heart, soul, and mind throughout the week with the beauty and pain of the Harlem Renaissance.  What a gift this week has been!  Thank you.