Discrimination in the South
African Americans in the South lived with legalized discrimination. Jim Crow laws were created in the late 19th century to disenfranchise black voters and to separate black and white people in all aspects of daily life.
From 1900 to 1930, thousands of African Americans were killed as a result of racially motivated violence, such as lynching. Not only did local government rarely intervene, they were condoned and became public events. The impact of this kind of segregation, along with economic factors, was one of the primary reasons African Americans started looking North for better lives and opportunities.
In Panel No. 15, a lone mourner is seated near a noose hanging on a tree branch. The seated figure curls inward while the individual’s red garment is cast into dramatic contrast against a gray sky.
Even in scenes like this that feature a single person, Lawrence does not individualize his figures; rather, they represent a collective experience. In the classroom applications below, students will analyze and compare how different artists responded to lynching and the Jim Crow laws that impacted every African American living in the South.
In the Classroom: Medium and the Message Analysis Activity
The Crisis’ article describes a specific historic event, the lynching of one man named John Hartfield. Compare Jacob Lawrence’s Panel No. 15 to an article from The Crisis newspaper, as well as to the political cartoon “The Reason” that also appeared in The Crisis in 1920.
How do these examples of the media express and comment on the appalling act of lynching? Ask students to write an analysis comparing these three examples. How does the type of media affect the impact of the intended message? Is one method clearer or more persuasive than another? If so, why?
In the Classroom: Responding to Jim Crow Laws Activity
Jim Crow laws legalized discrimination against African Americans in the South. The laws controlled almost every aspect of how African Americans could live and interact with society. They were passed in the late 19th century and officially abolished in 1964.
Ask students to read the Jim Crow laws and do their own research on how the Jim Crow laws were passed, implemented, and used to affect the lives of African Americans. Students might also research how and when they were repealed.
Then, students will identify one Jim Crow law that they stands out to them and respond to it through writing or creating a work of art. If students create an artwork, they should also write a short artist statement explaining the Jim Crow law they’re responding to and the artistic choices they made to respond to that law.