Tuesday, December 11, 2007

African American History: Did You Know...?

Here's a picture from my newest book, D IS FOR DRINKING GOURD: AN AFRICAN AMERICAN ALPHABET. This page is from "H is for Harlem Renaissance." The Harlem Renaissance was an amazing era when artists, writers, musicians, and political activists flocked to Harlem during the 1920s and on up into later years. Creativity and pride in African roots grew strong.

Recently, I've been discovering more fascinating information about the Harlem Renaissance for another book I'm currently writing. This book will be for teachers in the intermediate grades, grades 4-8. (I'll keep you posted as more information about the book becoomes available--my deadline is Saturday and I'm almost done!) One of the things I've been studying is the "rent party."

DID YOU KNOW that rent parties became very popular during the Harlem Renaissance? Its roots were in the church social in southern communities where friends and families would gather, often for a fundraiser, to help raise money for a new church roof or to help a family in need. People moved north to Harlem and brought these traditions with them.

I first read about rent parties in the book HAVING OUR SAY: THE DELANY SISTERS' FIRST 100 YEARS. Rent was high in Harlem and wages were low, so people started hosting rent parties to help each other out. A small entrance fee was charged (often less than a dollar). People paid for plates of food, often donated by the host's family and friends. A piano player provided music, furniture was cleared to make a dance floor, and guests danced the night away. By the end of the night, enough money was collected to pay the rent, and a fun time was had by all.

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