Contemporary Applications of The Migration Series

Contemporary Applications of The Migration Series


Jacob Lawrence’s paintings in The Migration Series can be used as a lens through which to view contemporary issues relating to race, migration, discrimination, and civil rights.

Read more to learn how to use The Migration Series and the Prism.K12 strategies in your classroom to discuss modern day issues facing African Americans and migrants all over the world.

Question Bridge: Black Males

Question Bridge: Black Males is a documentary-style video art installation that aims to represent and redefine black male identity in America. The exhibition arranges videos of individuals who self-identify as black males, posing questions and responding to their peers.

Using Prism.K12 strategies and Question Bridge resources, create interdisciplinary lessons that explore complex identity frameworks, conflict resolution communication models, and methods of inclusion.

Gender Wage Gap

By the 1920s, African American women were employed by a number of manufacturing industries. Wages for female factory workers varied significantly. In 1918, a woman could earn from $6 a week in a nut-shelling factory to $12 a week in a meat packing plant. Comparatively, African American males were being offered $6 a day (Source).

Just as African American women faced unequal pay at the turn of the 20th century, women in America are still fighting for equal pay in the 21st century. Currently, “full-time working women earn just 78 cents for every dollar a man earns” (Source) or women of color, the gap is even larger. “In 2014, African American women working full-time, year-round were paid only 60 cents, and Hispanic women only 55 cents, for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men.” (Source).

In the Classroom: Research more information and the history of the fight for equal pay. Then identify one specific fact and illustrate an ad campaign to support equal pay for equal work around that one idea.

Contemporary African American Artists

Jacob Lawrence was just 24-years-old when he created The Migration Series. He spent his entire life dedicated to creating and teaching art and was even preparing for another series when he died in 2000 at 82 years-old.

Lawrence paved the way for other African American artists coming up behind him to pursue art as a career.

In the Classroom: Research some of the top African American artists practicing today. To get you started, here is a brief list of the some African American artists working today:

Are there themes that connect Lawrence with contemporary African American artists? What are their similarities and differences, both in artistic style and approach, as well as themes and narratives?

Modern Day Migrations

In 2015, two educators from The Phillips Collection traveled to Bosnia to facilitate workshops with teachers, students, and emerging artists using Prism.K12 strategies and Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series about Bosnia’s own struggle with war and migration.

In the Classroom: Ask students to read the blog posts by The Phillips Collection educators and do their own research on the 1992–95 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Have students synthesize their research to develop mock interview questions as if they were going to interview a friend, family or community member who had experienced Bosnia's war.

Students could also role play this activity after they develop questions. One student could be the interviewer and the other, the interviewee.

Civil Rights Issues

Jacob Lawrence’s Panel No. 59, which shows African Americans voting in the North, pre-dates the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and the subsequent Civil Rights Act of 1964. Among many things, that law mandated that any changes in voting laws in the South must be approved by the US Department of Justice to ensure that African Americans were not discriminated against when voting.

In 2013, the United States Supreme Court “struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by a 5-to-4 vote, freeing nine states, mostly in the South, to change their election laws without advance federal approval.”

In the Classroom: Ask students to research the Voting Rights Act of 1964 and the recent Supreme Court decision to repeal some of its primary sections about voting rights. Compare the experience of African American voters at the time Lawrence created Panel No. 59 with those right after the Voting Rights Act in 1964 and today.