Make your own free website on

Jacob Lawrence: Workers


Jacob Lawrence painted  a series of pictures called The Migration of the Negro.  It showed black people in the South leaving farms to look for work in the cities in the north.  Between 1915 and 1940 hundreds of thousands of people moved.  Today there are still many workers who are called migrants.  Many of them go from one farm to another picking  crops as the seasons change.

What kind of jobs could be found in the cities?
Would the pay be better?  Why?
What different skills would you need to get one of these jobs?
How would you learn these skills?
Are unskilled workers paid less?
Why would it be difficult for their children to get a good education if their families keep moving?
How would this affect their future?


Jacob Lawrence believed in the value of work and he felt that all workers were important, no matter what job they did.  He wanted people to appreciate the jobs being done and to respect the workers by treating them fairly.

What kinds of  jobs do you think would be hard work?  Why?
Do people doing hard work always get  the most pay? Why not?
Would you need special skills to get more interesting and better paying jobs?  Which skills?

How much money do you need to live on?
The minimum wage is the least amount of money that workers are legally  allowed to be paid.
It is about $5 an hour.
(You can find the exact amount at
If you are paid to work for 40 hours a week, how much money would you earn?
Multiply that amount by 4 to find out about how much you'd make in a month.
Would that be enough to pay the rent on an apartment or buy a house?
Could you also afford food and clothing, furniture, and a car?
Ask your parents if you're not sure about how much these things cost.
Ask yourself:  Should I stay in school until I've learned enough skills to get a higher paying job?


Jacob Lawrence knew from his own experience in life that it was not easy for parents to get good jobs that paid enough money to help them to raise their families.  He had studied black history and found that although things were improving since the days of slavery, there was still prejudice against black people.  He wanted to show role models of  how people should live and work together.

What does this picture show about this family's success?
How are they shown being respectable and responsible?
Why did the artist show them walking in  a community where builders are working?
What jobs are the workers shown doing?
What does that tell about their skills and abilities?
Why did the artist include a white worker in the picture?
How have things improved since the time of segregation of  black and white people?