This is a highlight every semester. First, students read a short but informative outline of the history of jazz and blues music in early 1900's America, and why jazz in particular defined the African American experience and became "America's Music". To hold them accountable, they complete a simple checklist as they read.
The real fun comes as they watch video clips about the Cotton Club and Apollo Theater, as well as performances by legendary musicians, dancers, and entertainers of the era. Included are multiple links for: Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Cab Calloway, Josephine Baker, Billy “Bojangles” Robinson, and Dorothy Dandridge. Students record information about the performers' upbringing, what are they famous for, and their legacies. Truly an example of having so much fun they don't even realize they are learning. If time allows, I often spend another day allowing them to explore other entertainers or to learn more about someone who caught their attention.