Artist Jacob Lawrence made a name for himself due to a series of paintings called "The Migration Series." He was 23 years old when he created them, and went on to become one of the best-known artists of the 20th century. His signature style featured deep, rich colors, geometric shapes and collage. Lawrence, who was African-American, was deeply invested in telling the inclusive story of America, and shortly after the modern civil rights movement, set out to visualize what he said was, “the struggles of a people to create a nation and their attempt to build a democracy.”

Those 60 paintings were little known and little seen until now. In a first-ever exhibit, Salem’s Peabody Essex Museum has brought together the multi-paneled work for the first time in more than 50 years.

“Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle” is on view until April 26.


Lydia Gordon - Associate curator of exhibitions and research at PEM

Jacob Lawrence. "We crossed the River at McKonkey’s Ferry 9 miles above Trenton . . . the night was excessively severe . . . which the men bore without the least murmur . . ." —Tench Tilghman, Dec. 17 1776, Panel 10, 1954, from "Struggle: From the History of the American People," 1954–55, egg tempera on hardboard.
Courtesy of The Peabody Essex Museum; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 2003.414. © The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York