Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series
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Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series
Edited by Leah Dickerman, Elsa Smithgall. Text by Elizabeth Alexander, Rita Dove, Nikky Finney, Terrance Hayes, Tyehimba Jess, Yusef Komunyakaa, Patricia Spears Jones, Natasha Trethewey, Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, Crystal Williams, Kevin Young.
Lawrence's landmark series on African American migration in context
In 1941, Jacob Lawrence, then just 23 years old, made a series of 60 small tempera paintings on the Great Migration, the decades-long mass movement of black Americans from the rural South to the urban North that began in 1915–16. The child of migrant parents, Lawrence worked partly from his own experience and partly from long research in his neighborhood library. The result was an epic narrative of the collective history of his people. Moving from scenes of terror and violence to images of great intimacy, and drawing on film, photography, political cartoons and other sources in popular culture, Lawrence created an innovative format of sequential panels, each image accompanied by a descriptive caption. Within months of its completion, the series entered the collections of The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Phillips Memorial Gallery (today The Phillips Collection), Washington, DC, each institution acquiring 30 panels.
The Migration Series is now a landmark in the history of modern art. Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series, now in paperback, grounds Lawrence’s work in the cultural and political debates that shaped his art and demonstrates its relevance for artists and writers today. The series is reproduced in full; short texts accompanying each panel relate them to the history of the Migration and explore Lawrence’s technique and approach. Alongside scholarly essays, the book also includes 11 newly commissioned poems, by Rita Dove, Nikky Finney, Terrance Hayes, Tyehimba Jess, Yusef Komunyakaa, Patricia Spears Jones, Natasha Trethewey, Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, Crystal Williams and Kevin Young, that respond directly to the series. The distinguished poet Elizabeth Alexander edited and introduces the section.
Leah Dickerman is Curator in the Department of Painting and Sculpture, The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Elsa Smithgall is Curator at The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.
Jodi Roberts is Curatorial Assistant in the Department of Painting and Sculpture at The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Elizabeth Alexander is Thomas E. Donnelley Professor of African American Studies and American Studies at Yale University. Her most recent book of poetry is Crave Radiance: New and Selected Poems 1990–2010 (Graywolf Press, 2010).
Rita Dove is Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia. She is a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (1987) and a former United States Poet Laureate (1993–95). Her most recent book of poetry is Sonata Mulattica (W. W. Norton, 2009).
Nikky Finney is John H. Bennett, Jr. Endowed Professor of Creative Writing and Southern Letters, the University of South Carolina. She is a winner of the National Book Award for Poetry for her book Head Off & Split (Triquarterly Books/Northwestern University Press, 2011).Terrance Hayes is Professor of English at Carnegie Mellon University. He is a MacArthur Fellow (2014) and a winner of the National Book Award for Poetry for his book Lighthead (Penguin, 2010).Tyehimba Jess is Assistant Professor of English at the College of Staten Island in City University of New York. He is a winner of the National Poetry Series for his book leadbelly (Wave Books, 2005).
Yusef Komunyakaa is Global Distinguished Professor of English at New York University. He is a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (1994). His most recent book of poetry is The Chameleon Couch (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012).
Patricia Spears Jones is a poet based in New York. Her most recent book of poetry is Living in the Love Economy(Overpass Books, 2014).
Natasha Trethewey is Robert W. Woodruff Professor of English and Creative Writing, Emory University. She is a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (2007) and a former United States Poet Laureate (2012–14). Her most recent book of poetry is Thrall (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012).
Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon is Associate Professor in the Department of English at Cornell University. Her most recent book of poetry is Open Interval (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009).
Crystal Williams is Associate Vice President, Chief Diversity Officer and Professor of English at Bates College. Her most recent book of poetry is Detroit as Barn (Lost Horse Press, 2014).
Kevin Young is Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Previously, he was the Atticus Haygood Professor of English and Creative Writing and Curator of Literary Collections and Raymond Danowski Poetry Library at Emory University. His most recent book of poetry is Book of Hours (Knopf, 2014).