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Jacob Lawrence

Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000) was one of the first black artists to paint black people living in America. He wanted to show their history, their hardships, their courage, and their contributions to our country. He didn't just want to paint pretty pictures. His pictures tell stories about people's lives. Some of his subjects were famous. Most were ordinary people. Jacob Lawrence felt that they were all important. What did they do that is worth remembering? After you look at his pictures below you can do some research, write about what you found out, and tell how you feel about it.

Jacob Lawrence, Self Portrait, 1977

As you read about his life, see if you can understand why Jacob Lawrence decided to paint his pictures.

Jacob Lawrence was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1917.  When his father couldn't find work to support his family, Jacob's mother put him and his brother and sister in foster homes in Philadelphia. When she was able to get a job, she took the children with her to New York City.
Learn more about the workers pictures.




His mother was afraid  that Jacob might join a gang and so she enrolled him in an art program at a community center. Jacob dropped out of high school to help his mother when she lost her job.  But he wanted to learn more, especially about the history of black people.  He read as much as he could at the Schomburg Library in Harlem.
Learn more about the students pictures.

By the time he was 21 he had painted his first series of pictures about Toussaint L'Ouverture, the black general who led the war that won independence for Haiti. Later, he painted pictures about  Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Crispus Attucks, and John Brown.

Toussaint L'Ouverture

Crispus Attucks

Harriet Tubman

Art Share is an art appreciation project at Public School 241, Brooklyn, New York, USA
  Gary Greenberg