Instagram Facebook Twitter

The Migration Series, Panel no. 9: They left because the boll weevil had ravaged the cotton crop.

Jacob Lawrence ( between 1940 and 1941 )

Five cotton plants with boll weevills eating them.
  • Period Twentieth-Century
  • Materials Casein tempera on hardboard
  • Object Number 1156
  • Dimensions 18 x 12 in.; 45.72 x 30.48 cm.
  • Credit Line Acquired 1942; © 2022 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Excerpts taken from Elizabeth Hutton Turner’s interview with Jacob Lawrence, October 1993, transcript in The Phillips Collection Archives:

Jacob Lawrence: So this is the boll weevil. I enjoyed doing this because it’s rather organic in development, much different than some of the other compositions. Up until 1941 when we were married, I had never been to the Deep South. So when Gwen and I were married, one of the first things we did after The Migration Series, I wanted to see and experience an urban southern community. We selected New Orleans because it sounded very romantic, and we had heard so much about it. And then … since Mardi Gras had been suspended at that time because of the war, we decided to go to a rural community and that rural community was Virginia, Lenexa. And my mother told me that I had distant relatives there. I make this statement to say that I had never seen a boll weevil. I had never seen cotton. To this day, I don’t think I’ve seen cotton … so I had to improvise. I had to improvise a bug, or what I thought a boll weevil was. I liked the design element, and that’s how this particular work evolved like many of the works here.

Screenshot of Jacob Lawrence microsite

Learn more about Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series

Visit website