In this video from Picturing America on Screen, students learn about American artists Jacob Lawrence and Martin Puryear.
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Guide your students in a close reading of the informational texts provided below in the "For Teachers" section. Download Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series no. 57, 1940-1941 and Martin Puryear: Ladder for Booker T. Washington, 1996 and make copies for each student.
Begin by having students read the essay silently. Next, read the essay aloud to the class and have students follow along.
Direct students to refer to the text as they answer the questions below.
A Close Reading of "Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series no. 57, 1940-1941"
- What details in Lawrence’s personal history might have inspired him to paint The Migration Series?
- According to the text, once Lawrence got the idea for The Migration Series, what steps did he take to prepare?
- In the third paragraph, the author refers to Jacob Lawrence in this statement: “He was the first visual artist to engage this important topic.” What is inferred by the statement?
A Close Reading of "Martin Puryear: Ladder for Booker T. Washington, 1996"
- According to the text, why was Booker T. Washington a controversial African American leader?
- Who agreed with his policies and practices? Who disagreed?
- How does the symbolism associated with ladders, as described in paragraph #5, represent or describe aspects of Booker T. Washington’s life?
- At the end of the essay, critic Michael Brenson is quoted as saying: “Puryear has the ability to make sculpture that is known by the body before it is articulated by the mind.” What does he mean by this? Use evidence from the essay to support your answer.
If students have read both essays, ask them to compare and contrast the ways each artist went about titling his work.
Visit the NEH Picturing America website to find more innovative ways to integrate works of American art into your teaching.
- How does David C. Driskell describe the migration of African Americans from the South to the North? Paraphrase his words.
- In the video, Driskell says: "Jacob Lawrence was one of the first to break the color barrier early on when racism was in full bloom." What do you think he means when he says "when racism was in full bloom?"
- According to the video, why is Jacob Lawrence’s portrayal of the work ethic of African Americans a central theme of The Migration Series? According to Driskell, what about Panel 57 is particularly indicative of the African American work ethic?
- How does Driskell see the ladder? How does he describe it?
- Why do you think the filmmaker chose to combine The Migration Series and Ladder for Booker T. Washington in one film? What themes do they share?
Picturing America is a project of the National Endowment for the Humanities, carried out in partnership with the American Library Association, which provides an innovative way to experience America’s history through our nation’s art. Visit the Picturing America website to learn more. For more videos like this, visit Picturing America on Screen.
A production of THIRTEEN.
A production of THIRTEEN.