These three challenging but accessible poems from the Harlem Renaissance all deal with themes of the American Dream.
Within that broad topic, "Harlem" by Langston Hughes, “Sonnet to a Negro in Harlem,” by Helene Johnson, and "We Were the Mask" by Paul Laurence Dunbar also deal with themes of race, culture, and heritage.
When they complete these lessons, your students will:
—have a deeper understanding of the intersection between race and opportunity
—familiarize themselves with pivotal poems from the Harlem Renaissance
—strengthen their close reading skills
—strengthen their critical thinking skills
—gain new perspectives on the American Dream
These poems could be used with many texts that deal with the American Dream, race, power, or class. Suggestions include: Their Eyes were Watching God, Death of a Salesman, The Great Gatsby, Invisible Man, A Raisin in the Sun, The Grapes of Wrath, and Of Mice and Men. They could also be used with other art from the Harlem Renaissance including drama, visual art, and music.
There are also prompts for in-class writing as well as for longer assessment.
This handout of thorough and precise questions is ready to go with minimal prep on the part of the teacher.