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In 1941, Jacob Lawrence, then just 23 years old, completed a series of 60 small tempera paintings with text captions about the Great Migration, the mass movement of black Americans from the rural South to the urban North that began in 1915-16. Within months of its making, the Migration Series was divided between The Museum of Modern Art (even-numbered panels) and the Phillips Memorial Gallery (odd-numbered panels). The work has since become a landmark in the history of African American art, a monument in the collections of both institutions and a crucial example of the way in which history painting was radically reimagined in the modern era. In 2015 and 2016, the panels will be reunited in exhibitions at The Museum of Modern Art (One-Way Ticket: Jacob Lawrence's Migration Series and Other Works) and at The Phillips Collection (Jacob Lawrence's Migration Series). This catalogue grounds Lawrence's Migration Series in the cultural and political debates that shaped the young artist's work and highlights its continued resonance for artists and writers today. An essay by Leah Dickerman situates the series within contemporary discussions about black history and an artist's social responsiblities in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Elsa Smithgall traces the acquisition and exhibition history of the Migration Series. Short commentaries on each panel explore Lawrence's career and technique, and the social history of the Migration. The catalogue also debuts ten poems commissioned from acclaimed poets that respond to the Migration Series. Elizabeth Alexander, honored as the poet at President Obama's first inauguration, introduces the section.
About the Author
Leah Dickerman is a Curator in the Department of Painting and Sculpture at The Museum of Modern Art, New York.Elsa Smithgall is a Curator at The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.Elizabeth Alexander is a poet, essayist, playwright, and professor in the Department of African American Studies at Yale University, CT. Alexander wrote and presented the inaugural poem at President Barak Obama's first inauguration ceremony in January 2009.Rita Dove is the Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia, a former U.S. Poet Laureate (1993-1995), and a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (1987).Nikky Finney is the John H. Bennett, Jr. Chair in Southern Letters and Literature at the University of South Carolina. She is also the winner of the National Book Award for Poetry (2011).Terrance Hayes is a Professor of English at Carnegie Mellon University, PA and the winner of the National Book Award for Poetry (2010). In 2014 Terrance was awarded a MacArthur genius award.Tyehimba Jess is an Assistant Professor of English at the College of Staten Island, City University of New York.Yusef Komunyakaa is a Global Distinguished Professor of English at New York University and the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (1994).Jodi Roberts is a Curatorial Assistant in the Department of Painting and Sculpture at MoMA.Patricia Spears Jones is a New York City-based poet. Her work was included in The Best American Poetry 2000, edited by Rita Dove.Natasha Trethewey is the U.S. Poet Laureate (2012-present), and the Robert W. Woodruff Professor of English and Creative Writing at Emory University, GA. She is the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (2007).Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon is an Associate Professor at Cornell University, NY. She is also the winner of the National Book Award for Poetry (2009).Crystal Williams is the Associate Vice President and Chief Diversity Office and Professor of the English Department at Bates College, ME.Kevin Young is the Atticus Haygood Professor of English and Curator of the Raymond Danowski Poetry Collection at Emory University. He is the winner of the PEN/Open Book award (2013) and Finalist for the National Book Award (2003).