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Kansas Kaleidoscope - December 2001/January 2002

(Volume 5, Number 3)

Real People, Real Stories

A fun magazine for kids!

Kansas Kaleidoscope, December 2001/January 2002 Smarts

African American Creative Genius in the Arts

When you draw a picture, write a story, make up a song or a play, you are using your art smarts. People like to make art that others will enjoy. Artists also want to say something important to people in a poem, song, or picture.

The artists in this issue are the very best. Some of them were geniuses at more than one kind of art. They all had two other things in common. They lived in Kansas as children, and they shared an African American heritage. Read on to see how their "art smarts" shaped people's lives--including yours!

Friends at Play in New York City

In the 1920s and 1930s, a talented group of people in New York City became friends. These men had three things in common. First, they were all creative. Charlie Parker could invent new ways of playing music. Langston Hughes wrote great novels and poems that sounded like songs. Aaron Douglas painted in a new style. Oscar Micheaux used technology to make movies when "talking pictures" were first becoming popular.

Second, they had all lived in Kansas as kids before moving to New York. Third, they shared an African American heritage and wanted to say something important in their art for black Americans. Read more about them in this issue.

The Roaring '20s

The 1920s were years of hope and prosperity for peple living in large cities. Electricity lit many homes and businesses for the first time. A lot of people moved to cities like New York to find better jobs. Progress in manufacturing and technology made people feel like celebrating. They enjoyed dressing up, going to parties and making up dances like the Charleston to fast music.

The Harlem Renaissance

Harlem is a small neighborhood in New York Cty. During the 1920s Harlem was an exciting place. Many famous African American artists lived there. They made Harlem into a place where the world could see the creative accomplishments of African Americans. Historians call this time the Harlem Renaissance.

Music Makers: All that Jazz

Jazz music was the newest sound around in 1920. It was loud, bouncy, fast, and created by African-American musicians. A Harlem Renaissance author wrote, "The true spirit of jazz is a joyous revolt from convention, custom, authority, boredom, even sorrow--from everything that would confine the soul of man and hinder its riding free on air."

Kansas City Jazz

Kansas City was an important center of African American music in the 1920s and 1930s. Music called "the blues" and the newer sounds of jazz filled the night. At one time, the Kansas City jazz district had more than 50 music clubs where famous players performed.

The Papa of Be-bop

A Kansas boy named Charlie Parker was raised in the 1920s on Kansas Cit jazz music. His mother worked nights as a nurse, so Charlie hung around nightclubs listening to exciting music. Band was Charlie's favorite class at school. His mother bought him an alto saxophone just like the ones he heard played in the jazz clubs.

The Write Stuff

Langston Hughes wrote poems that sounded like the jazz music he loved. His poetry is best "read aloud, crooned, shouted, and sung" said one fan. Hughes tried to write sentences with a beat.

Picture Perfect

Aaron Douglas liked to paint BIG! A rich businessman paid Aaron $700--a large sum of money in the 1920s--to paint a mural inside his New York City nightclub. Douglas' large painting was such a hit that he was hired to paint murals on walls in other buildings in New York, Chicago, and Nashville.

In America's Living Rooms

Radio, phonograph records, newspapers, magazines, and books brought the creativity of Harlem to American homes.

At a Theatre Near You

As a child in Kansas, young Oscar Micheaux wanted to be a pioneer. His grandfather had been a slave without land of his own. So Micheaux got a homestead in South Dakota in the 1890s and became a farmer. He started writing novels about his pioneer experiences and selling them door to door. One of his books, The Homesteader became a best-seller.

"Renaissance Man". . .and Women

The term "renaissance man" means someone who has interests and talents in many different areas. That term describes these three remarkable Kansans, whose careers followed the Harlem Renaissance--Gordon Parks, Eva Jessye, and Gwendolyn Brooks.

Departments in This Issue:

  • Kaleidoscope Challenge
  • For Parents and Teachers
  • Book Report
  • Technology Timeline
  • Bee a Winner!
  • The Barn Stormers