The Harlem Renaissance was an exciting time of rebirth for African American arts and culture. It was not, however, a time free from turmoil, discrimination, and hardship. Help your students celebrate the beauty and power of Harlem Renaissance poetry while exploring the suffering of the race riots of the “Red Summer” of 1919 with this activity.
In this paired passage activity, students analyze McKay’s powerful poem “If We Must Die” (a primary source), pose questions about the poem, then seek out answers to their questions in an informational text article about “Red Summer.” They finish the close reading cycle by re-reading the poem and reflecting on their learning gains.
Students may complete this activity using the Internet to locate the poem and article (URLs provided on activity sheet), or you could make copies of the poem and article to distribute in the classroom: