Media Resource

Picturing America: Jacob Lawrence and Martin Puryear

Jacob Lawrence (1917–2000), The Migration of the Negro Panel no. 57
Photo caption

Jacob Lawrence (1917–2000), The Migration of the Negro Panel no. 57, 1940–1941. Casein tempera on hardboard, 18 x 12 in. (45.72 x 30.48 cm.). Acquired 1942.

Both Jacob Lawrence's "The Migration of the Negro" and Martin Puryear's "Ladder for Booker T. Washington" represent facets of African American history. Lawrence's print of a woman washing clothing is part of a series portraying the Great Migration of African Americans from the Jim Crow South to the northern and western United States in pursuit of a better life. Puryear's sculpture, while its title references an individual, similarly speaks to shared experiences of long and protracted struggle for dignity and justice.

View the video (5 minutes) from Picturing America.

Access the Picturing America lesson plans for Lawrence and Puryear.

Classroom Connections

Comprehension Questions

  • Why is Jacob Lawrence significant to American art?
  • How do work and labor figure in Lawrence's work?
  • What kinds of progression does Puryear's ladder illustrate?

EDSITEment Resources

EDSITEment has lesson plans for each work of art: Jacob Lawrence's Migration Series: Removing the Mask (grades 6-8) and Martin Puryear's Ladder for Booker T. Washington (grades 9-12).

Minnie Bruce Pratt's poem "The Great Migration," explored in this lesson (grades 6-12), offers one way to connect art and poetry, as well as to explore the different migrations of people to, from, and within the United States.

EDSITEment has also created this Teacher's Guide for African American History and Culture, which compiles a wide array of lesson plans, curricula, and other resources for teaching and learning African American history in the United States.