Harlem Stomp! A Cultural History of the Harlem Renaissance

Hill, Laban.  Harlem Stomp! A Cultural History of the Harlem Renaissance.  2004. 160 pp. Lexile: 1270.  Available in paperback.

A National Book Award finalist, this beautifully designed book conveys a sense of time and place through its visual elements as well as its text.  Jazzy reproductions of artwork, photographs, and artifacts, including posters and book jackets, fill the pages.  The narrative provides an overview of Harlem’s history from about 1900 through the early 1930s, explaining why so many blacks headed to New York City from the South and exploring the resentment and violence they encountered in the North. Readers learn that Harlem’s clubs and music became popular with whites, a financial boon to the community, but at the same time, black culture was distorted in minstrel shows and other theatrical productions, a source of disappointment to Harlem’s intellectuals.  A host of visual artists, performers, and writers important to the Harlem Renaissance are introduced including Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, William H. Johnson and more.  Quotes from articles, poems, and speeches give an immediacy to the narrative.

Reading Std #3: Analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.  Have students analyze Hill’s choices in how he organized this history.  It begins with a chronological structure but then switches to chapters 6-9 that cover the same time period.  Why start with the chapter on the Dark Tower?  What connections are drawn among these four chapters?  This book has a high Lexile (1270) but a limited amount of text, with many visual images that reinforce the text, making it a possible choice for less advanced readers.