The Migration Series: A Tribute to Jacob Lawrence

In order to teach African American history to their 8th grade students at Paul Dunbar Middle School, Teaching Artist Zawadi Noel and Teacher Mr. Williams decided to introduce a painting project in addition to reading and writing. Over the course of the school year, participating students rose to the task, creating watercolor replicas of the late Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series. Lawrence’s Migration Series explores the topic of African Americans traveling from the rural South to the urban North in between WWI and WWII- this movement was called the Great Migration.

“The North has always been a mystical place for many African Americans. Before Emancipation, during the period of enslavement, many people took their freedom by going North to free states and Canada. After Emancipation in 1865, and the many failures of Reconstruction in the 1870’s, many African Americans began to realize that the South held very little promise for them and their American dream of equality and true freedom. At first, the movement started as a trickle, some adventurous souls journeyed North and our West seeking a better life. In the South, there was little opportunity for education for African American children. Children often labored side by side with their parents in the fields. This, too, was a fundamental reason for people to move to the North. Many of our families were part of that migration.” – Mr. Williams

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