Jacob Lawrence


Jacob Lawrence



Jacob Lawrence Biography

Academic, Painter (1917–2000)
Jacob Lawrence was an American painter, and the most widely acclaimed African-American artist of the 20th century. He is best known for his Migration Series.


Born in New Jersey but raised in New York City’s Harlem, Jacob Lawrence was the most widely acclaimed African-American artist of the 20th century. Known for producing narrative collections like the Migration Series and War Series, he brought the African-American experience to life using blacks and browns juxtaposed with vivid colors. He also taught, and spent 15 years as a professor at the University of Washington.

Early Life and Career

Born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on September 7, 1917, Jacob Lawrence moved with his parents to Easton, Pennsylvania, at the age of 2. When his parents separated in 1924, his mother deposited him and his two younger siblings in foster care in Philadelphia, and went to work in New York City. When he was 13, Lawrence joined his mother in Harlem.

Lawrence was introduced to art shortly after his arrival, when his mother enrolled him in Utopia Children’s Center, which had an after-school art program. He dropped out of school at 16 but took classes at the Harlem Art Workshop with Charles Alston and frequently visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In 1937, Lawrence won a scholarship to the American Artists School in New York. When he graduated in 1939, he received funding from the Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project. He had already developed his own style of modernism, and began creating narrative series, painting 30 or more paintings on one subject. He completed his best-known series, Migration of the Negro or simply The Migration Series, in 1941. The series was exhibited at Edith Halpert’s Downtown Gallery in 1942, making Lawrence the first African-American to join the gallery.


World War II and After

At the outbreak of World War II, Lawrence was drafted into the United States Coast Guard. After being briefly stationed in Florida and Massachusetts, he was assigned to be the Coast Guard artist aboard a troopship, documenting the experience of war around the world. He produced 48 paintings during this time, all of which have been lost.

When his tour of duty ended, Lawrence received a Guggenheim Fellowship and painted his War Series. He was also invited by Josef Albers to teach the summer session at Black Mountain College in North Carolina. Albers reportedly hired a private train car to transport Lawrence and his wife to the college so they wouldn’t be forced to transfer to the “colored” car when the train crossed the Mason-Dixon Line.

Back in New York after his stint in the south, Lawrence continued to paint. He grew depressed, however, and in 1949, he checked himself into Hillside Hospital in Queens, where he stayed for 11 months. He painted as an inpatient, and the work created during this time differs significantly from his other work, with subdued colors and people who appear resigned or in agony.

After leaving Hillside, Lawrence turned his attention to the theater. In 1951, he painted works based on memories of performances at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. He also began teaching again, first at Pratt Institute and later the New School for Social Research and the Art Students League.

Teaching and Commissions

In 1971, Lawrence accepted a tenured position as a professor at University of Washington in Seattle, where he taught until he retired in 1986. In addition to teaching, he spent much of the rest of his life painting commissions, producing limited-edition prints to help fund nonprofits like the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Children’s Defense Fund and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. He also painted murals for the Harold Washington Center in Chicago, the University of Washington and Howard University, as well as a 72-foot mural for New York City’s Times Square subway station.

Lawrence painted until a few weeks before he died, on June 9, 2000.

Personal Life

Lawrence married Gwendolyn Knight, a sculptor and painter, in 1941. She actively supported his work, providing both assistance and criticism, and helped him compose captions for many of his series.



Hear the Artist in his own words.

Jacob Lawrence



The African Americans Many Rivers to Cross Episode 4- Making a way Out of no way 1897 1940

Why America Needs Black History Month


Black History has not been incorporated or included into most American school curriculum. Recently I have spoke with a young white co-worker who is from my Mom’s Hometown of Dayton, Ohio and came of age in the 1990s. Let’s say he is in his mid to late 20s a well educated young man who admitted to me that he had never heard of many of the Black Artists, Scientists, Inventors, Photographers, Painters, Sculptors, Writers etc… that I know and admire.

Many white young people especially those raised in the Mid-West or the South, ie the “Bible Belt” do not know or have even heard about Blacks who built America. Says a lot about the American “Mis-education system” which excludes entire races and populations because they don’t fit into our lopsided concept of America.

Also one of the younger white assistant curators at my museum workplace who recently curated a Block Buster exhibit of a living African-American artist had to admit that he never knew or learned about the Great Migration until he curated the special exhibit. That’s sad.  So in the U.S.A. you’re not really receiving an education so much as an indoctrination into all things white. White is seen as worthy whereas Black and Native American cultures and contributions are rarely acknowledged.

Black History is American History!!

Here is some more information about the Great Migration and artist Jacob Lawrence who chronicled this important passage of American History.  I have had the opportunity to see this collection at MoMA twice.

Jacob Lawrence, The Migration Series, 1940-41 (*long version*)


Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series


History Brief: The Great Migration


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Sister Friend Gratitude Prayer

Sent this prayer praise message out to both my Close Sister Friend. One is Muslim. The other Buddhist. Both Outstanding, kind, compassionate, honest, hard working, caring, wonderful ladies. 

I Love them both. 

Here’s the Prayer of Thanksgiving! 

Father God I Thank you in Jesus name for my precious Sister Friend. Not only is she Blessed but she is also a Blessing to every life she touches especially mine.

I remain forever grateful that you caused our paths to cross. I am a Better Woman because of my Sister Friend wisdom, knowledge, kindness, compassion and understanding. She is an Angel in my life. 

Thank you! 

Black History Month – Little known facts about Black inventions that will surprise you

More Black Inventors and Scientists courtesy of Pastor Lionel Sneed.

Lionel Sneed Ministries

Information taken Black Inventor

marjoriejoyner01Marjorie Stewart Joyner was born in Monterey, Virginia on October 24, 1896, the granddaughter of a slave and a slave-owner. In 1912, an eager Marjorie moved to Chicago, Illinois to pursue a career in cosmetology. She enrolled in the A.B. Molar Beauty School and in 1916 became the first Black women to graduate from the school. Following graduation, the 20 year old married podiatrist Robert E. Joyner and opened a beauty salon.

 She was introduced to Madame C.J. Walker, a well-known Black businesswoman, specializing in beauty products and services. Walker supplied beauty products to a number of the most prominent Black figures of the time, including singer Josephine Baker. With her fame, Ms. Walker was able to open over 200 beauty salon shops across the United States. After Madame Walker’s death in 1919, Marjorie was hired to oversee the Madame C.J. Walker Beauty Colleges as national…

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Over 500 Artists and Art Professionals Sign Letter Opposing Trump’s Travel Ban


The protest sign calling him an F’ing Cheeto is worth some laughs! 

Glad the art community including my museum workplace is standing up for justice!