Crossing Boundaries: One Way Ticket

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Jacob Lawrence, One Way Ticket, 1941
Crossing Boundaries
By EMMA SHAPIRO

Jacob Lawrence was born in New Jersey in 1918, but his parents migrated from Virginia and South Carolina. From a young age he took an interest in painting the people surrounding him; neighborhood activity, sideway politics, beggars, and late night commuters. Lawrence then moved to painting scenes of Harriet Tubman and Toussaint L'Ouverture. He painted them in flat, unshaded forms, a style he never abandoned. When Lawrence grew tired of those scenes he decided to begin a large scale documentation of the black exodus from the south, birthing the Migration series.

In his Migration Series, Lawrence does not depict the gruesome scenes of violence and racism but focuses on the internal emotional suffering of the lonely survivors. He is able to convey the struggling that African-Americans experienced during their migration without tossing blame in any direction. Lawrence chose this subject matter because he felt connected to the story.

Jacob Lawrence tells the African-American migration story and even though we are past the pain of this particular historical event, many current stories can relate. People around the world constantly must make the choice to cross physical boundaries in search of new residence. And just like the African-American migration, these boundary crossings are in search of safety, security, freedom, and a happier life.

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