Heroes: Honoring African Americans Through Jacob Lawrence's Migration Series


Share Your Story
 1. Telling Stories of one’s families’ migration and immigration

Most families have stories of migration or immigration, whether it is moving to a new country, a new city or a new home. Share your family’s story of migration or immigration through writing, art, or a combination of the two.

My uncle Chepe came from El Salvador. He worked hard at what he wanted to accomplish. I think he [Lawrence] is a very good artist. I like his style. He gets right to the point.

— Emilio Monzon, 5th grade, Oyster Bilingual School,

Washington, DC  (2007)

 2. Telling Stories of what it is like to migrate

Share what it was like for you to migrate by showing your thoughts and feelings about the experience through writing, art, or a combination of the two.  Your story does not have to be as dramatic as the Great Migration.  Think about a time when you had to move to new place, like a new town, home, school, or even a new classroom. 

In my picture there is a happy side on the right and a sad side on the left. On the right side there is a girl and that is me. I am sad because I am moving from Ethiopia to the U.S.A. I am moving to D.C. Moving is hard because you leave the people you love behind.  But I am a little happy because at least I have my mom, my dad, my uncle, and my sisters, Bernadette and Rute.

 —Geilia Assefah, 4th grade, Takoma Education Campus, Washington, DC (2011)


3. Telling one’s own story like Jacob Lawrence

Tell a story using Jacob Lawrence’s style of multiple panels, each with a caption.  Use a minimum of three panels to portray the beginning, middle and end of your story.  To bring more detail to your story, add additional panels. 

I chose this story because it was first season in basketball. It made me feel happy, aggressive, loving, and breathless, and I tried my best. I won a trophy at the end of the championship and I saw my grandfather smiling down at me. My grandfather made me feel happy and proud that I saw him from the clouds. I love my grandpa a lot”

—Jerome Thornton, 5th grade, Shepherd Elementary, School, Washington, DC (2007)

4.    Showing Migration in different ways

Think about how, when, and why people migrate and where they relocate.  Then, look again at The Migration Series.  Notice how Jacob Lawrence expresses the various migration journeys of African Americans in his panels.  Also, study Lawrence’s artistic style and his use of a limited palette, angles, and lines.  Drawing on Lawrence’s panels as inspiration, share a migration story through art.  Model your artistic style after Lawrence’s style and use similar techniques as he did in his panels.  Write a description of your art, explaining how it is similar to Lawrence’s work. 

My painting is similar to Jacob Lawrence’s painting. My painting is colorful pattern with birds that [are] moving to South Carolina from New York. The birds in my picture are flying south because it is getting cold in New York.

—Paul Walker, 7th grade, STARS Academy, MS 250, Harlem, New York City (2008)

5.    Interviewing one’s family

Interview family members who have migrated and ask them questions about the experience.  Why did they move and to where?  How long did the migration take?  What challenges did they have?  How did they feel about the experience?  Share the interview through writing, art, or a combination of the two. 

“I moved from unique Japan to the crowds of D.C.”

--Jonas Howard interview with his paternal grandmother Mary Jo Howard on how she migrated to DC, 2nd grade, Inspired Teaching Demonstration Public Charter School, Washington, DC (2012)