IV

Narratives of African American Art and Identity

Jacob Lawrence

The Travelers, 1961

Egg tempera on masonite

11.5" x 8.5"


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The Travelers

Between the years 1961 and 1969, Jacob Lawrence created a series of paintings based upon many of the jarring political and social events that occurred between 1954 and 1964. Among the works he created during this period were The Ordeal of Alice (1963), which illustrates the horrors of racial protest and violence many black children endured during the process of forced integration, and Invisible Man Among the Scholars (1963), which questions the chances of success for a black man within a white educational establishment.

In The Travelers (1961), Lawrence utilizes elements of color and form to create the image of a tightly knit family unit with their material belongings waiting patiently before they embark upon their journey. Undoubtedly, this family would have had to deal with many of the problems of segregation in public transportation that were receiving national attention, including the 1955 massive protest of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the brave determination displayed by the CORE-sponsored Freedom Riders in 1961. Although The Travelers is not as visually didactic as the other two works mentioned above, its theme of a traveling African American family recalls many of the issues involving segregated public transportation that were on the minds of United States citizens in 1961.  T. F.

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