The Great Migration was the mass movement of over 5 million African Americans from the rural South to urban centers in the North and West. Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series explores the first wave (1916-1940); this exhibition explores the second wave (1940-1970). The Phillips Collection collaborated with high school students in Center for Inspired Teaching’s Real World History class for this project. Using Lawrence’s work as a springboard for conversations about the legacy of the Great Migration and the universal theme of struggle in the world today, the students conducted oral histories of individuals who moved from the South to Washington, DC, prior to 1970. Their stories reveal the courage, faith, hope, and determination of those uprooting themselves in search of a better life.
The short film is modeled after The Migration Series—from life in the South and the decision to leave, to the journey and life in the North. Students also wrote labels for The Migration Series. As you listen to these migration stories and read the students’ responses, think about your own life. What has shaped your destiny? When have you taken risks? What are the key moments in your life journey?
Conduct Your Own Oral History
Click on the panel to read the student responses to The Migration Series