Jacob Lawrence’s American Struggle

In March, the Seattle Art Museum will host a timely exhibition, Jacob Lawrence:  The American Struggle. Best known for his work The Migration Series, Lawrence set his sight on the American Revolution creating a series of 30 painted panels between 1954 and 1956, focusing on historical events occurring from 1775 to 1817. It is interesting to note that Lawrence developed this series during another time of struggle and strife in the country, the Civil Rights era.

The Seattle Art Museum’s show will reunite these works for the first time since 1958.

For some artists, their work is to create visual narratives. Through their work they provide their singular perspective on historical events. Such is the work of Jacob Lawrence. Lawrence brings us to key moments of a history centuries away that, yet, links to the present.

Today, One Mighty and Irresistible Tide of history sweeps over the nation. As you are well aware, we have been visited upon by multiple, simultaneous struggles that have swept us up Against Wind and Tide of forces unforeseen in our lifetime.

We are living history and each of us has a unique story to tell. How will you tell your story of these times?

The Lawrence series, singular in its inclusion of voices of the enslaved, women and Native Americans brings to our attention the complexity of historical events illuminating, not only image, but voice to carry the work’s message.

At the core of America’s ongoing struggles to forge our perfect union each of us finds that we, too, Struggle Within to come to terms with America’s Founding and the Struggle Over Economic Inequality.

What are we to learn from Jacob Lawrence’s visions? That within The Bone and Sinew of the Land we call home lies The Beautiful Struggle unfinished as it is for we must go about the work of Saving America’s Cities, continue Speaking of Indigenous Politics, heed the cry of Give Us the Ballot, refute American Apartheid and understand that the idea that This Land is Our Land must include the whole of us less we descend into Class War, USA and other unforeseen calamities.

Apostles of Revolution come and go but what stays, what endures is that The Struggle Continues, from the halls of Congress, to the streets of city, town and state, inside of our homes and amongst friend, foe and family. We are charged to struggle through the contentious task of how to live better together, work together and forge a future full of possibility and promise for all.

Jacob Lawrence’s The American Struggle takes us back, centuries. This work comprises images  of a visual legacy from this nation’s formation and founding and the conflicts inherent in the complexity of competing interests, aspirations and, at its core, survival.

To understand Lawrence’s series, its scope and relevance to past and present check out the resource list Jacob Lawrence’s American Struggle which includes the book American Struggle: Teens Respond to Jacob Lawrence and discover what our future has to say about our past.

~ posted by Chris


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