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An American Story

by Jacob Lawrence & illustrated by Jacob Lawrence

Age Range: 8 & up

Pub Date: Oct. 30th, 1993
ISBN: 0-06-023037-1
Publisher: HarperCollins

 Sixty paintings (tempura on gesso; originals 12'' x 18'', some vertical, some horizontal), done in 1940-41, when this fine artist was in his early 20s. Lawrence's introduction describes his own part in one of our ``biggest population shifts,'' which carried African-Americans from the rural South to the urban North, in the decades beginning with WW I, ``on a quest for freedom, justice, and dignity.'' His powerful paintings emphasize these themes in their spare, stylized forms and strong compositions. As Lawrence explains, he ``painted the panels all at once, color by color, so they share the same palette,'' which gives the book a compelling unity (interestingly, the even- numbered originals now belong to the Museum of Modern Art, while the Phillips Collection holds the odds). A brief explanatory text captions the paintings of crowds in railway stations, workers and their milieu, the experience of segregation and of prison, and home life. At the close is an evocative poem, ``Migration,'' by Walter Dean Myers (far more effective than his verse for Brown Angels, below). A splendid and unique visual evocation of a significant historical movement. (Nonfiction. 8+)