The Library

Jacob Lawrence

Who Was Jacob Lawrence?

Jacob Lawrence was one the most renowned African American artist of his time. Known for producing narrative collections like the Migration Series and War Series, he illustrated the African American experience using vivid colors set against Black and brown figures. He also served as a professor of art at the University of Washington for 15 years.

Early Life and Career

Born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on September 7, 1917, Jacob Lawrence moved with his parents to Easton, Pennsylvania, at the age of two. After his parents split in 1924, his mother sent him, along with two other siblings, to a foster care facility in Philadelphia, while she looked for work in New York. At 13, Lawrence and his siblings reunited with their mother who was residing in Harlem.

Encouraging him to explore the arts, Lawrence’s mother enrolled him at Utopia Children’s Center, which had an after-school art program. Although he dropped out of school at the age of 16, he continued taking classes at the Harlem Art Workshop with under the mentorship of artist Charles Alston and frequently visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Lawrence painted until a few weeks before he died, on June 9, 2000.