Jacob Lawrence

Painter and Educator
Birthplace: Atlantic City, NJ
Education: Harlem Art Workshop, American Artists School

Jacob Lawrence was born September 7, 1917, in Atlantic City, NJ. He grew up Pennsylvania and after his parents divorced he lived in foster homes. When he was 13, he went to live with his mother in Harlem. Jacob studied at the Harlem Art Workshop in New York City and in 1937 he won a two-year scholarship to the American Artists School. Jacob worked with opaque watercolors (gouache) and tempera.

Lawrence is famous for his narrative series of paintings on African-American historical figures and topics. When he was 24, he completed a narrative series of sixty panels called Migration of the Negro (http://www.artchive.com/artchive/L/lawrence/they_were_very_poor.jpg.html) describing the movement of African Americans to cities in the North.

Lawrence taught painting at New York's Pratt Institute and at the University of Washington in Seattle. Exhibits of his work have been hung in major museums including the Metropolitan Museum and the Whitney Museum.

Lawrence created over 1,000 artworks and his career spanned more than 60 years. Jacob Lawrence died in his sleep at his home in Seattle at the age of 82.

"I've always been interested in history, but they never taught Negro history in the public schools...I don't see how a history of the United States can be written honestly without including the Negro. I didn't [paint] just as a historical thing, but because I believe these things tie up with the Negro today. We don't have a physical slavery, but an economic slavery. If these people, who were so much worse off than the people today, could conquer their slavery, we can certainly do the same thing.... I am not a politician. I'm an artist, just trying to do my part to bring this thing about..."
–Jacob Lawrence, 1940

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Jacob Lawrence

Black History Month  Return to the Encyclopedia
of Prominent African Americans

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