Phillips Collection: Jacob Lawrence


LILI Unit: Phillips Collection, Jacob Lawrence

Essential Question:How did Jacob Lawrence tell the story of the Great Migration through his artwork? Pre-trip lesson: This program introduces students to the Great Migration as told through the artwork of Jacob Lawrence. Students learn about some of the factors that resulted in the mass exodus of African Americans from the South to the North during the first half of the 20th century. They study the life of Jacob Lawrence and his “Migration Series,” which provides a compelling visual narrative about that time period. Students learn the techniques that Lawrence employed in creating his series, including the use of common art elements such as color, shape, and line.


Level of Difficulty:


Trip:  At the Phillips, students view various panels from Jacob Lawrence’s “Migration Series” (the other thirty are at MoMA in New York).  Using the panels, students explore the conditions in both the South and North that led to the Great Migration. They also examine themes, such as discrimination and labor, which Lawrence focuses on throughout the series.
Academic Standards:

  • English Language Arts (CC.5.R.I.2, CC.5.L.4.a)
  • Social Studies (5.9)
  • Visual Arts (5.2.6)
Post-trip lesson:  As a culminating activity, students reflect upon the Great Migration as they piece Lawrence’s panels together to create their own fictional migration story. They also write brief captions to go along with their images. Finally, students test their knowledge of the Great Migration as they compete in a collaborative review game and take written assessments.