Using the Amon Carter’s collection of American art and the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Picturing America project, explore masterworks of American art and the artists who made them while discussing how these works connect American culture and history.

This project is supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

National Endowment for the Humanities Picturing America Program Participant

Artist Biography

Born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and raised in Boston and Philadelphia, Jacob Lawrence (1917–2000) settled with his family in New York City’s Harlem around 1930, in the Great Depression years following the celebrated Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. He began his art training in 1932, under the painter Charles Alston, at the Harlem Art Workshop in the 135th Street Public Library. Inspired by the library’s collection of materials on black history and culture, he decided to paint not just scenes of contemporary Harlem but also extended narratives drawn from African–American history. Between 1937 and 1943 Lawrence created a series of paintings recounting the lives of the eighteenth-century Haitian revolutionary Toussaint L’Ouverture and the nineteenth-century black abolitionists Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, as well as a series depicting the migration of African-Americans from the South to the North. The Migration Series—some sixty works in all, produced in 1940 and 1941—was shown at New York’s vanguard Downtown Gallery in 1941, when the artist was only twenty-four; three years later it was shown at the Museum of Modern Art. In 1946 he taught at the innovative Black Mountain College in North Carolina, the first of many teaching posts he would hold. In 1971 he accepted a permanent teaching position at the University of Washington and moved to Seattle, where he enjoyed increasing national and international acclaim during the last decades of his life.