The Great American Epic

Jacob Lawrence's Migration Series

May 3 - October 26, 2008

The Migration Series

Jacob Lawrence's complete 60-panel Migration Series (1940–1941), rarely seen in its entirety, is on view through October 26, 2008. Lawrence was just 23 when he created this masterpiece of narrative painting, which uses vivid patterns and colors to tell the story of the mass movement of African Americans from the rural South to cities in the North.

Although Lawrence was born in Atlantic City, both of his parents were from the South, and the migration in which they took part profoundly shaped his childhood. The exhibition takes an in-depth look at Lawrence’s powerful interpretation of this significant moment in American history and examines how the subject resonates today.

Soon after the series was exhibited at a New York art gallery in late 1941, The Phillips Collection purchased the odd numbered panels and the Museum of Modern Art acquired the 30 even numbered panels. This exhibition brings the series together in its original sequence, with short captions written by Jacob Lawrence.

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.

Exhibition sponsorship

Generously sponsored by:








Additional support provided by: Fenner and Ina Milton, Toni and Ronald Paul and The Harris Family Foundation, The Ryna and Melvin Cohen Family Foundation, the Fischer Family Foundation, George and Trish Vradenburg and the Vradenburg Foundation, Lynne and Joe Horning, and Hanna and Michael Haskett.