\ African American World . Arts & Culture . Art Focus | PBS
Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
African American World
Find what you need on PBS and NPR
Timeline Reference Room Kids Classroom Community Resources
arts & culture
race & society
Arts & Culture: Art Focus
Art FocusBrain TeaserSound Off!Free Stuff

Listen to NPR's tribute to Jacob Lawrence.

The Legacy

Jacob Lawrence, one of the most important artists of the 20th century, was born in 1917 and is best known for his series of narrative paintings depicting important moments in African American history. Lawrence was introduced to art when in his early teens, Lawrence's mother enrolled him in Utopia Children's Center, which provided an after-school art program in Harlem. By the mid-1930s, he was regularly participating in art programs at the Harlem Art Workshop and the Harlem Community Art Center where he was exposed to leading African American artists of the time, including Augusta Savage and Charles Alton, the director of the Harlem Art Workshop and, later, professor of art at Howard University. At the community art centers, Lawrence studied African art, Aaron Douglas's paintings and African American history. With the help and encouragement of Augusta Savage, Lawrence secured a scholarship to the American Artists School and later gained employment with the WPA, working as a painter in the easel division. Lawrence began painting in series format in the late 1930s, completing 41 paintings on the life of Toussaint L'Ouverture, the revolutionary who established the Haitian Republic. Other series followed on the lives of the abolitionists Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and John Brown. The Migration of the Negro, one of his best known series, was completed in 1941. The most widely acclaimed African American artist of this century, Lawrence continued to paint until his death in 2000.

Related Artists:
Norman Lewis

Migration of the Negro # 3 (1941)
Click to enlarge

The Migration of the Negro #17 (1941)
Click to enlarge

The Migration of the Negro # 58 (1941)
Click to enlarge

Jacob Lawrence on PBS & NPR


All Things Considered: Jacob Lawrence Obituary

Morning Edition: Profile of Jacob Lawrence


Online NewsHour: Remembering Jacob Lawrence

Goin' to Chicago: The Art and Life of Jacob Lawrence

Period & Artists
Pre-Civil War
Exploring Freedom
The Harlem Renaissance
The Legacy
Jacob Lawrence
Norman Lewis
Social Activism
Modern Identities
feedback privacy policy credits site map pledge printer friendly format