Contingency and Constraint

African-American Migration as Seen through Jacob Lawrence's “Migration” Series

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Deborah Breen

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Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) 11 West 53rd Street, New York, NY 10019 http://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2015/onewayticket/ Admission: USD 25/18/14 “I pick up my life, / And take it with me, / And I put it down in Chicago, Detroit, / Buff alo, Scranton, / Any place that is / North and East, / And not Dixie.” Th ese are the opening lines from “One-Way Ticket,” by African-American poet, Langston Hughes (1902–1967). Th e poem provides the emotional and historical core of the “Migration” paintings by Jacob Lawrence (1917–2000), a series that depicts the extraordinary internal migration of African Americans in the twentieth century. Not coincidentally, the poem also provides the title of the current exhibition of the sixty paintings in Lawrence’s series, on display at MoMA, New York, from 3 April to 7 September 2015.1 Shown together for the first time in over twenty years, the paintings are surrounded by works that provide context for the “great migration”: additional paintings by Lawrence, as well as paintings, drawings, photographs, texts, and musical recordings by other African-American artists, writers, and performers of the early to mid-twentieth century.

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Transfers

Interdisciplinary Journal of Mobility Studies

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