Jacob Lawrence The Son of southern mIgrants

Bar and Grill by Jacob Lawrence 1941

This image clearly shows the physical divide between white and black Americans.

Harriet Tubman Series (Panel 4) 1940

This piece has me wondering about what each person may symbolize. At first, I thought the person in the "yellow" shorts might be the "slave catcher" but since all of the people are black and he is wearing shorts, I don't think this was the artist's intent. I think the person dressed in white may represent how so many people "laid down their lives" for others to pass. Literally and figuratively a bridge to freedom. White often represents purity, goodness, and heavenly beings in American art.

War Series: Beachhead 1947
War Series: The Letter 1946

While Lawrence is known for drawing about African Americans, this looks like someone who is caucasian. I imagine the reader either getting a draft notice or a letter stating that a family member has died. Either race, experienced devastation by these letters.

"Jacob Lawrence is known for writing about the African American experiences about war, religion, and civil rights."
Images from his Great Migration Series

Jacob Lawrence documents the spirit and the perseverance of African Americans in the 20th century. The Great Migration Series tells us a story over multiple pieces themed on the migration of African Americans leaving the plantations of the south to find a better life in the industrialized North. Many settled in Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, New York City, and many other northern cities.

After viewing the documentary The 13th, a movie about the history of the 13th amendment, they provide evidence that the Great Southern Migration is really the black community trying to escape the terrorism of the south in hopes of places with better opportunity and improved race relations. However, the Northerners were not always welcoming as evidenced by this image by Jacob Lawrence.

51 African Americans seeking to find better housing attempted to move into new areas. This resulted in the bombing of their new homes.
41 The South was desperate to keep its cheap labor. Northern labor agents were jailed or forced to operate in secrecy.
Jacob Lawrence lived between 1917-2000. He showed how difficult life was for those African Americans that migrated north during WWI. We see segregation, new opportunities, and roadblocks. We still see similar themes in the USA today. Lawrence also sees the role of how losing the African American workers to the North introduced a new way kind of slavery: incarceration. Once you are convicted of a crime, according to the 13 amendment, you lose many of your civil liberties. This is relevant today.

Studying the artist Jacob Lawrence, and his work, would connect with fifth-grade social studies during the Migration period in the 1940's. I would contrast this with how other countries are experiencing mass migration today. How are they alike? How are they different? Describe the life and treatment of African Americans during the 1940's. Were they considered "free" as proclaimed in the 13th amendment?


Created with images by Ron Cogswell - "Panel 58 (Educational Opportunities) -- Jacob Lawrence's Migration Series The Phillips Collection (DC) October 2016" • Ron Cogswell - "Panel 38 (Railroads) -- Jacob Lawrence's Migration Series The Phillips Collection (DC) October 2016" • Ron Cogswell - "Panel 49 (Different Kind of Discrimination) -- Jacob Lawrence's Migration Series The Phillips Collection (DC) October 2016" • Ron Cogswell - "Panel 23 (Migration) -- Jacob Lawrence's Migration Series The Phillips Collection (DC) October 2016"

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