Renaissance Eras webquest

Renaissance Eras

Comparing the Italian Renaissance and the Harlem Renaissance



The word renaissance means "rebirth". Why does the word renaissance describe the period of the 1920s for the black community living in Harlem? There is another period in history known as the Renaissance. The Italian Renaissance is a period of time from 1400 to 1600 where a rebirth of culture occurred. Using information you have found conducting research on the Internet or in the library, compare the Harlem Renaissance with the Italian and European Renaissance.

An overview of each Renaissance period:

Italian Renaissance:

The word renaissance means “rebirth.” The idea of rebirth originated in the belief that Europeans had rediscovered the superiority of Greek and Roman culture after many centuries of what they considered intellectual and cultural decline.

In the Renaissance, people from various segments of society—from kings and nobles to merchants and soldiers—studied classical literature and art. Unlike the professional scholars of the Middle Ages, these people were amateurs who studied for pleasure, and their interest in art from the past was soon extended to contemporary works.

The Renaissance was marked by an intense interest in the visible world and in the knowledge derived from concrete sensory experience. Although Christianity was not abandoned, the focus during the Renaissance turned from abstract discussions of religious issues to the morality of human actions. In the 14th and 15th centuries many Italian scholars began to display a remarkable awareness of history. They believed that they lived in a new age, free from the darkness and ignorance that they felt characterized the preceding era.

The civilization of the Renaissance was the creation of prosperous cities and of rulers who drew substantial income from their urban subjects in the Italian city-states and the countries of England and France. The commerce that kept cities alive also provided the capital and the flow of ideas that helped build Renaissance culture. With the development of the town, there was a pursuit of wealth and the opportunity for traders and bankers to interact with the world beyond their town walls. This created an atmosphere more open to new ideas and to innovation, experimentation, and enterprise in all aspects of life. This brought a revolution of thought in Science, Literature, and Art.
(excerpted from Encarta Encyclopedia)

Harlem Renaissance:

The Harlem Renaissance, a flowering of literature and other arts in New York City during the 1920s and 1930s, has long been considered by many to be the high point in African American culture. This African-American cultural movement became known as "The New Negro Movement" and later as the Harlem Renaissance. More than a literary movement, the Harlem Renaissance exalted the unique culture of African-Americans and redefined African-American expression. African-Americans were encouraged to celebrate their heritage. Artists and other African American leaders of the time had a common bond: they dealt with Black life from a Black perspective.

As the population of Afircan Americans rapidly urbanized and its literacy rate climbed, Harlem, New York, the “Negro Capitol of the America,” rose out of the vast relocation under way from South to North. A combination of causes propelled the Great Black Migration: southern white mob violence, the econonmics discrimination, crop failure, the interruption of European immigration after 1914 and a consequent labor vaccum in the North, and the aggressive recruitment of black labor for work at wartime wages by northern industralist.

The Harlem Renaissance transformed African-American identity and history, but it also transformed American culture in general. Never before had so many Americans read the thoughts of African-Americans and embraced the African-American community's productions, expressions, and style.
(from -

Your Task


1. Read about the Harlem Renaissance (see links below)

2. Describe the characteristics of each category of the Harlem Renaissance
using your chart guideline provided

3. Compare the characteristics of each category of the Harlem Renaissance to each category of the Italian Renaissance

4. How are they similar or different??


The Process

Read about the Harlem Renaissance and take notes on your guidesheet from the web links below:

Harlem Renaissance

Beliefs - INIVA

Beliefs - Father Ryan.Org

Economics - Bohemian Ink

Economics - Library of Congress

Political Leaders - Wikipedia

Political Leaders - GW University

Literature - Virginia School District

Literature - Matthew Henry

Political influences in Art and Literature - Matthew Henry


Art - Artcyclopedia

Music - Cotton Club and Jazz

Music - History of Swing

Science - Tuskegee Institute

Once you focus on key figures of the Harlem Renaissance in each category,
look in this site for individual Biographies of the Harlem Renaissance.




Your teacher will explain the grading rubric in class.


Although these two Renaissance movements took place 400 years apart and occurred on different continents, the factors involved in creating these two cultural events are very similar.


Additional Renaissance Resources

Italian Renaissance

Beliefs - History Guide

Beliefs - Learner.Org

Economics - Iowa School District

Political Leaders - Galileo Project

Literature - Peter Sadlon

Art - Life of an Artist


Science - Exploring Leonardo


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