Exhibition Curator Elsa Smithgall shares the history behind Jacob Lawrence’s epic Migration Series in this video. In discussing the work’s impact on the world today, Smithgall commends the artist’s foresight: “Completing his series on the eve of World War II, Lawrence leaves us in Panel 60 with the message: ‘and the migrants kept coming.’ Lawrence was prescient in recognizing that the migration story would continue, inviting us to reflect on the migration experience in our contemporary world.”
The story of migration is ongoing. In the final, 60th panel of The Migration Series, Jacob Lawrence leaves us with the words “And the migrants keep coming.” The Phillips has invited contemporary artists to continue Jacob Lawrence’s work. Check the recently launched Jacob Lawrence website for additional works to be unveiled in this dynamic curated selection, or contribute your own #Panel61.
Allan deSouza, Entry (from The World Series)
The artist’s multimedia work explores the relationship between individual experience and historical and ideological constructs. In his Intersections installation for the Phillips in 2011, The World Series, deSouza responded to Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series with 30 photographs taken on his travels around the world that capture the condition of people on the move.
Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series resonates today in many ways, but this Election Day it seems especially fitting to highlight Panel no. 59, whose caption reads: “In the North they had the freedom to vote.” Kinshasha Holman Conwill, Deputy Director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, puts it well in her oral history recorded in 2015:
“I think as with a lot of great art [The Migration Series] will always have meaning. It will have meaning because it speaks to the human spirit, to human aspirations, to courage, to fear, to love, to family. But this specifically because people will always be on the move, people will always be looking for something better, and that will mean that his work will never lose its resonance for generations to come.”