Jacob Lawrence’s Forward is a rich visual resource for teaching students about the Underground Railroad and the courageous life of Harriet Tubman. Lawrence was a prolific artist during the mid-20th century and created vibrant works of art which depicted some of the darkest periods in America’s history. His paintings evoke the fear, inequality, and haunting imagery of racism in the Antebellum and Jim Crow South. Lawrence was painting during the rise of the Civil Rights movement, and he used the power of his paint brush to make parallels between injustices in American history with those witnessed in contemporary culture.
A new Jacob Lawrence exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, showcases the artist’s “Great Migration” series. Consisting of 60 individual paintings, the series provides a visual narrative of the millions of African Americans living in the South who migrated to cities in the Midwest and North during the early 20th century. Lawrence wrote a caption for each of the 60 painted panels, creating in the artist’s own words an illustrated “epic drama”. Check out the exhibition article here to learn more about Lawrence’s use of visual art and written text in portraying the Great Migration, and the impact this event had on the transformation of American culture.
*Please be advised that the article and coinciding audio file contain some mature content.