Migrations to Harlem and the Harlem Renaissance

Sequence of Activities:

Monday, Nov. 26:
We used a set of maps about New York City for the following purposes:
Map–Communities within New York City: to connect student experiences with particular neighborhoods
Series of maps–Change through time (1920 – 1990) in percentage African American: to investigate meaning of “segregation;” to see which communities (e.g., Harlem, Bedford-Stuyvesant, South Jamaica) gained large numbers of African Americans through time; to define “white flight”
Set of maps–Number of Foreign-born from particular countries (e.g., Dominican Republic, Mexico, Columbia, Jamaica, Haiti, India, Russia, China) : to see where particular ethnicities cluster (in particular neighborhoods), to compare “segregation” (limited choice of place to settle) with “chain migration” (choosing to live near relatives or near similar culture, initial discussion of what “pulls” immigrants to a particular place
Maps from Historical Atlas about New York City: Where did African Americans live within Manhattan from 1600s to 1800s to early 1900s (World War I) and mid 1900s (World War II)? How and why did African Americans move northward to Harlem?

Reflections by two of the students: These students are currently taking the AP Human Geography class. Both included a connection between that class and our Rensizzle focus on African American migrations and Harlem.

#1: On the first day, we looked at maps relating to the Great Migration (by African Americans). Segregation continued. Whites heading away from African Americans is known as white flight. Most African Americans came to rust belt areas for jobs and freedom.

Tuesday, Nov. 27:
Morning: We defined “Jim Crow” by using readings and maps.
1. Selected readings from The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson:
This book describes two “Great Migrations” out of the South to northern (and western) cities (including New York City). Students watched for “pushes” out of the “Jim Crow” South as we read selections about individual African Americans who lived in Mississippi and Florida and migrated north (to Chicago-Southside, to New York-Harlem) in the Second Great Migration.
2. Maps about number of Jim Crow laws and lynchings:
The students used data values on the maps to make categories (low, medium, high) about Jim Crow laws and to thereby delimit “regions” where Jim Crow laws were particularly severe. (Students also read about a Caribbean planter from 1700s, Mr. Lynch, after whom lynching is named.)
3. We matched a map about origin and destination locations for Great Migration migrants to the descriptions of individual migrants in Isabel Wilkerson book. (The map came from a Schomburg publication.)
4. In preparation for Wednesday’s field trip to Harlem, we read a Langston Hughes editorial about income divisions within Harlem (wealthy Sugar Hill vs. poorer downhill Harlem). This was an opportunity to examine different points of view (wealth vs. poverty in Harlem).

Afternoon: We went to the movie “Lincoln” in Astoria. It focused on the complicated and sometimes devious political negotiations that Lincoln used to get the 13th Amendment (actual emancipation of slaves) through Congress.

#1: On the second day, we investigated an African American living in Harlem, New York. African Americans had united in order to survive and avoid racism. Racism also grew within a race. African Americans build a caste system determining where African Americans lived. For example, in Harlem, only light-colored people and professionals lived in Sugar Hill.

Wednesday, Nov. 28:
This day was our field trip to Harlem. First we visited The Schomburg Museum, particularly an exhibit about Gordon Parks (photos of Harlem and Washington DC people in 1930s-40s) and an exhibit about the Emancipation Proclamation with amazing photos, paintings, art and artifacts about slavery. Next we had soul food nearby on Lenox Ave. at Manna’s Buffet. Next we did a walking tour past where Langston Hughes lived, then to the Abyssinian Baptist Church where Melvin explained its history, then uphill to wealthier Sugar Hill and City College where the National Park Service shows Alexander Hamilton’s home. We saw brownstone homes (exemplifying wealth and prestige) on Sugar Hill.

#1 – On Wednesday, we went to Harlem, to Sugar Hill, and to Alexander Hamilton’s house. We learned about his origin and cause of his death.

Thursday, Nov. 29:
In the morning, we visited Louis Armstrong’s house in Corona. Not only did we see his success, but also we learned why he and other musicians and artists left Harlem during the Depression.
In the afternoon, we used more selections from Isabel Wilkerson’s book (The Warmth of Other Suns) to see what happened to individuals who came to Harlem and to southside of Chicago in the 1940s.
We used maps of the U.S. to see how many African Americans live in northern cities compared with the south as of 2000 census.

Friday, Nov. 30:
Students went back through their folders about the past 4 days and wrote reflections. We suspect that reflections may grow through time and that what the students wrote on Friday may have fruit that they are not currently able to talk about.
We listened to jazz music from Harlem Renaissance and had soul food desserts.
Students were pulled out for senior photos. The five basketball players were extremely tired because they had had three practices this week and were about to have their third game.
In a smaller group, the three students from the AP Human Geography class discussed the relationship between industrial employment in New York City and the Great Migration. We also discussed why poorer neighborhoods and former industrial areas are located where they are in NYC.

#1 – Improvements: The way the group functions was fine. Visiting national landmarks and historic places made everything more interesting. However, the weather was cold for walking around Harlem.

#2: Throughout the past five days in the African American Harlem Migration group, we were able to explore historical landmarks around New York City, as well as acknowledge the hardships that African Americans faced migrating from the South to the North in the United States in the 1920s.

I personally was more proficient in terms of understanding the Emancipation Proclamation, and better understanding Lincoln’s presidency.

This week I also learned new terminologies such as chain migration, G.I. loans, white flight, rust belt and sun belt.