Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

One-Way Ticket: Jacob Lawrence's Migration Series and Other Visions of the Great Migration North

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

One-Way Ticket: Jacob Lawrence's Migration Series and Other Visions of the Great Migration North

Article excerpt

April 3-September 7, 2015

Museum of Modern Art, New York

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

In 1941, Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000) completed a series of 60 small tempera paintings with text captions about the Great Migration, the multi-decade mass movement of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North that started around the 1910s. The early part of the migration ran through 1930 and numbered some 1.6 million people. Lawrence himself had moved to Harlem when he was thirteen years old, having lived previously in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. His mother had been born in Virginia and his father in South Carolina, so he would have been personally familiar with the migration from members of his own family.

Within months of its making, the series entered the collections of The Museum of Modern Art and the Phillips Memorial Gallery (today The Phillips Collection), with each institution acquiring half of the panels. Lawrence conceived of the series as a single work rather than individual paintings, and worked on all of the paintings at the same time, in order to give them a unified feel and to keep the colors uniform between panels. He wrote sentence-long captions for each of the sixty paintings explaining aspects of the event. …

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