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Defining Moments

The Harlem Renaissance

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Artistic expression and civil rights activism fused together in the 1920s in an uptown neighborhood of Manhattan. Using Harlem as their collective loom, African Americans weaved a cultural tapestry of sumptuous elegance, exploring and enriching literature, art, and music. The Renaissance of the era gave a voice and identity to a minority seeking to cast off the prejudice of the era.

Defining Moments: The Harlem Renaissance presents an authoritative account of the origins and progression of the Harlem Renaissance. It also explores the era’s lasting impact on America’s political and cultural landscape. The volume is organized into three distinct sections—Narrative Overview, Biographies and Primary Sources—which offer a one-stop resource for student research.

  • The Narrative Overview section provides a detailed, factual account of what led up to the Harlem Renaissance, the events and issues during the era, and its legacy in American society
  • The Biographies section presents valuable biographical background on leading figures associated with the Harlem Renaissance
  • The Primary Sources section collects a wide variety of pertinent primary source materials from the era, including official documents, song lyrics, memoirs, editorials, and other important works

Other notable features include a glossary of important people, places, and terms; a detailed chronology featuring page references to relevant sections of the narrative; an annotated listing of selected sources for further study; an extensive general bibliography; and a subject index.

Standard Features

  • Library binding, 7 1/4 x 9 1/4
  • 240 pages
  • 30-40 photographs and other illustrations
  • Narrative Overview section: Provides a detailed, factual account of the “defining moment”
  • Biographies section: Presents valuable biographical background on leading figures associated with the event
  • Primary Sources section: Collects a wide variety of pertinent primary source materials from the era
  • Research Topics: Proposes a list of topics suitable for conducting historical research and writing reports, a valuable starting point for student research
  • Source Attribution: Contains references for primary sources and other quoted material that guide users to other historical research resources
  • Glossary of Important People, Places, and Terms: Gives brief definitions for the many terms used in the book
  • Chronology: Highlights the related events in chronological order, along with “see” references that direct the reader to pages in the narrative with additional information
  • Sources for Further Study: Provides annotated citations for selected sources that are most useful to students
  • Bibliography: Lists books, periodicals, web sites, and videos consulted in preparing the volume
  • Subject Index: Includes people, places, organizations, events, and other topics

Research Topics

Each volume in the Defining Moments series covers a wide range of topics that students can use as starting points for further research. Potential research topics for Defining Moments: The Harlem Renaissance are below:

  • Review the history of Reconstruction and the Great Northern Migration
  • Survey the social and economic factors that transformed Harlem into the “capital of black America” in the 1920s
  • Explicate the dominant themes in African-American literature and art of the Renaissance era
  • Describe the famous nightclubs, jazz joints, and cabarets of Harlem’s heyday
  • Explain how you might have been involved in the Harlem Renaissance if you had been there during that era
  • Summarize the lives and times of leading figures of the Harlem Renaissance, including Langston Hughes, Paul Robeson, and W.E.B. Du Bois, select one you admire, and explain why
  • Discuss race relations between African-American artist and writers and their white patrons and supporters
  • Explore white and black concepts of African-American identity and citizenship
  • Analyze the political and artistic legacy of the Harlem Renaissance


“This volume in the Defining Moments series observes a significant time in one of the most important eras in the philosophical, artistic, and political history of African Americans. It presents an overview of the genesis of this renaissance and why Harlem emerged as its center. The author offers readers a condensed version of the renaissance, providing rich and significant details of prevailing themes and people who were at the forefront. … Recommended. Lower-level undergraduates through faculty/researchers; general readers.”

—Choice, Dec ’08

“Hillstrom presents insight into the [Harlem Renaissance] period through narrative overviews, biographical profiles, and primary sources. … [Most] engaging are the observations about the time from notables such as Alain Locke, Langston Hughes, and Dorothy West.”

—School Library Journal, Curriculum Connections, Spring ’09

“[This] essential survey offers a well-plotted explanation of the forces shaping the New Negro Movement and its ideological clash with Marcus Garvey’s Zionism. Hillstrom traces the movement’s multigenerational legacy, demonstrating its continued relevance. … An insightful, highly accessible subject primer for general collections.”

—Library Journal, Aug ’08

“Harlem Renaissance succeeds in providing easy-to-read content without being overly simplified. Most teen readers and the general public will like this book’s unpretentious organization and appearance. … [The book provides] useful information for assigned papers, and for adults who want an introduction to Harlem Renaissance’s role in African American history and American culture. … Harlem Renaissance is recommended for middle and high school libraries, and public libraries.

—American Reference Books Annual, 2009

“This is an excellent historical account of an important part of African-American history. … Overall, this is a valuable starting point for study at the middle- and high-school level.”

—Arts & Activities, Dec ’08

“The concluding section of ‘Primary Sources’ sets this title apart from others on the subject, with selections ranging from an excerpt from Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk to Langston Hughes’s remembrance of the period from The Big Sea: An Autobiography, as well as selected poetry and accounts of the Savoy Ballroom and Apollo Theater. Other primary-source material is featured in sidebars, all well documented to lead students to additional research sources.”

—School Library Journal, Sep ’08