Harlem 1919: A Question of Leadership

Game in Development | Available to Download

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It is 1919. African-American Harlem extends from 130th to 145th Street and 6th to 8th Avenue. In the center of this bustling “Negro Metropolis,” as writer Claude McKay described it, is EDDIE’s, a fictional barbershop where men of all social stations converge to discuss the news of the day: the return of Harlem’s own National Guard from fighting in France, the rise of white mob violence, the emergence of a new generation of activists, ready to challenge the existing black leadership. EDDIE’s barbers vie to persuade the clients that their favored leader’s point of view will take the community into the next decade. Although the barbers support W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, and A. Philip Randolph, other ideas –both traditional and radically new—will emerge as the game unfolds.

Harlem 1919 is designed as a “conversation game;” that is, a game that leads players to hone the skills needed for academic discussions: active listening, building on others’ comments, constructing arguments, using evidence to make claims. The game has three preliminary sessions and three game sessions. The debriefing of the game, which is particularly important in a game that brings up topics of race, racism, and resistance, that are still raw today, can take place in session 6 or an additional class period.

About the Author:

Mary Jane Treacy is Professor Emerita of Spanish and Women's Studies at Simmons College, where she was also Director of the Honors Program. She has published Campo abierto: lecturas sociopolíticas de Latinoamérica as well as studies on narrations of war, violence, and memory in Central and South America. Her current project centers on conquest and memory in colonial Cuba.