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Studying the Harlem Renaissance at St. John School

Feb. 23, 2006 – St. John School on Gifft Hill celebrated Black History Month with a tribute to the Harlem Renaissance, the name given to a period between the end of World War I and the middle of the 1930s in which black culture, literature and politics flourished in Harlem, N.Y.
Students from the upper and lower schools, as well as a group from Julius E. Sprauve School, gathered Thursday afternoon at the upper school campus for a variety of events centered on the Harlem Renaissance.
A table of students played Jingo, a bingo-like game that featured a board filled with pictures of prominent black historical figures. And as upper school student Jason Moloney called out names like Mohammed Ali and Althea Gibson, the students put beans over squares filled with those names.
"It's a great way for the kids to learn," said co-administrator Scott Crawford.
In another corner of the library, students listened to stories about famous black people.
Photographs of celebrated Harlem Renaissance figures decorated a hallway. And under the "who am I" signs, information appeared about the persons pictured.
Outside, a group of students practiced tap dancing, led by St. John resident Elizabeth Putnam.
Several of the Sprauve students had a firm grasp on the importance of the Harlem Renaissance.
Nyree Doway, 9, busy explaining with her friends Johnalys Edwards, 10, and Shemaera Fahie, 9, said it was important to celebrate all the "stuff" black people did.
She said the people came out of the New York ghetto to be successful. "And they came back and helped to change it to a wealthy place," she said.
Shemaera shared information about Harriett Tubman, who helped slaves escape the south in the years before the Civil War.
Saying that Tubman was known as the railroad conductor, Shemaera said, "She saved the world."
St. John School student Samantha Liburd, 12, said she didn't know anything about the Harlem Renaissance because they didn't teach it in her old school, where they also didn't celebrate Black History Month.
"It's all new to me," she said.
Her friend, Whitney Bess, 13, said she only knew about two tap dancers, the Sandman and Mr. Bojangles, because she was a dance student.
St. John School student Alex Olszewski, 15, said the event was important to him because it was a chance to present the information researched by the students.
"And I get some time off from school," he said.
One St. John School student used the opportunity to drum up business for the school's Greek Night, to be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday at the lower school campus.
Aidan Dysart said the students pulled together what they learned about ancient Greece to host the event that features Greek food.
"And we're raising money for a trip to the Space Center in Florida," he said, nabbing two reporters in the parking lot in hopes that they'd buy a $25 ticket.

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