The Migration Series

Jacob Lawrence

Jacob Lawrence's Migration Series (1940–41), a sequence of 60 paintings, depicts the mass movement of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North between World War I and World War II—a development that had received little previous public attention.

Lawrence spent months distilling the subject into captions and preliminary drawings and preparing 60 boards with the help of his wife, artist Gwendolyn Knight. He created the paintings in tempera, a water-base paint that dries rapidly. To keep the colors consistent, Lawrence applied one hue at a time to every painting where it was to appear, requiring him to plan all 60 paintings in detail at once.

The series was the subject of a solo show at the Downtown Gallery in Manhattan in 1941, making Lawrence the first black artist represented by a New York gallery. Interest in the series was intense. Ultimately, The Phillips Collection and New York's Museum of Modern Art agreed to divide it, with the Phillips buying the odd-numbered paintings.

Explore two interactive features based on and inspired by Jacob Lawrence’s extraordinary artwork.

 Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series offers a dynamic, in-depth look at The Migration Series. Users can listen to Lawrence read his original captions and explore his artistic process and sources of inspiration. Other features include an online children's art gallery inspired by the series, an opportunity for visitors to share their stories of migration and read those of others, and games exploring color, shape, and sound. The program provides classroom connections for teachers. 

 Jacob Lawrence: Over the Line surveys Lawrence's life and his long and fascinating career, with emphasis on his student years and development as an artist. Through Lawrence’s paintings and archival photographs, users can follow his progress from his breakthrough exhibition into the segregated art world of New York through the decades beyond. Teaching resources include activities and questions keyed to various curriculum areas. A separate section contains collages made in a model project by students in Washington, DC, elementary schools.