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The Migration Series Panel 1 (1940–41)
This is a panel from Jacob Lawrence's Migration Series. The caption reads, "During World War I there was a Great Migration north by southern African Americans."
Almost 80 years ago, young artist Jacob Lawrence set to work on an ambitious 60-panel series portraying the Great Migration, the flight of more than a million African Americans from the rural South to the industrial North following the outbreak of World War I. Before painting the series, Lawrence researched the subject and wrote captions to accompany each panel. Like the storyboards of a film, he saw the panels as one unit, painting all 60 simultaneously, color by color, to ensure their visual unity. The poetry of Lawrence's epic statement emerges from its staccato-like rhythms and repetitive symbols of movement: the train, the station, ladders, stairs, windows, and the surge of people on the move. Following the example of the West African storyteller, who spins tales of the past that have meaning for the present and the future, Lawrence tells a story that reminds us of our shared history and at the same time invites us to reflect on the universal theme of struggle in the world today.
Source: The Phillips Collection phillipscollection.org 3