Jacob Lawrence

Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000) is a painter who is well known for documenting the great migration of free slaves from the south to the north. Lawrence lived in the New York neighborhood of Harlem in the 1920s. Lawrence was inspired by African American sculpture August Savage. He thought about the Great Migration in the 30s and decided to honor and record this event through his art. He spent months in the library researching historical events before he started his series on migration.

This panel is panel 57 of a woman doing laundry. She seems to be concentrating on her work with determination. We discussed this painting in depth. What do you know about the woman in this painting? What shapes do you see? What do the shapes represent?

Picturing America is a collection of posters given to schools around the country by a grant from the National Endowment for Humanities. This painting is part of that series. Picturing America posters come with a video, questions, information and lesson ideas for each image. Before starting our own paintings, we watched Picturing America’s video on Jacob Lawrence.

Then we discussed our own migration stories. Some students are first generation migrants while others’ families came to the US many generations ago. Each story is important to the make up of our community and each story deserves to be documented and told. So each student took their migration story and painted their own three panel of paintings just like Jacob Lawrence.

This is painting is by a student who just moved here from Russia this year.

Telling the Hmong migration story.

Irish migration.

African slave trade.

Some students either didn’t want to tell or didn’t know how to tell their migration stories so they painted a series on an important event in their life.

Wisconsin protests February 2011.


Students have relieved so many compliments on their beautiful paintings!

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