I love to read books about artists to my students. This book is a particularly wonderful book about African-American artist, Jacob Lawrence. I used this book for grades 1 through 6 during African-American History month. It was wonderful to show my students Lawrence’s beautiful art depicting the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman, The Great Migration, and Toussaint L’Overture’s battle to liberate Haiti.
This book is also a jumping off point to talk about important points in history. Like many African-American artists, Lawrence lived in Harlem. His Theater series illustrates the shows in Harlem’s famous entertainment halls, like the Cotton Club, and the Apollo. Jacob Lawrence was also a part of the Easel Project, a government art program stated in the 1930s to help artists. Jacob Lawrence was paid to paint and was paid more than many jobs during the Great Depression.
Jacob Lawrence painted on paper and cardboard using tempura paint. Remarkably, Jacob Lawrence would create series of paintings about a subject, sometimes as many as 40 paintings, by painting one color at a time. He would put up all the sheets of paper for the series on his wall and then would move among the panels until he had painted all the colors.
This book is really a non-fiction book, but the color panels of his paintings are so dramatic and beautiful in this book that it makes a wonderful book to use as you would a picture book with groups of students.
This book is won the Carter G. Woodson Book Award granted by the National Council for the Social Studies, an award given to books that “encourage the writing, publishing, and dissemination of outstanding social science books for young readers that treat topics related to ethnic minorities and relations sensitively and accurately.”