(Jacob Lawrence) Black Americans & the American Revolution (Struggle)

 

This richly illustrated article here by Rachel Himes at Jacobin about Struggle: From the History of the American People, the 1954-1956 series of 30 panels by Jacob Lawrence illuminating the place of Black Americans in the American Revolution. The particular body of work, and others like it by Lawrence, predates and thereby adds another perspective on the contemporary discussion about America, race, slavery, and white supremacy. “Instead of handing the credit to the founding fathers, Lawrence, like socialist revolutionaries from Eugene Debs to Lenin, claimed America, and the principles of democracy and freedom, as the product of collective struggle.” That Lawrence, as Himes notes, got his start with the Workers Progress Administration during the New Deal is itself part of the history evoked by the artist. To my eye, Jacob Lawrence caught the dynamism and dissonance of the country. The complete series is linked to here. To someone who knows the visual record better than I do, I would ask if these works on the American Revolution are uniquely violent and uniquely true in capturing that violence?

[[Panel 2 (1954) from “Struggle: From the History of the American People” (1954–56), by Jacob Lawrence. Egg tempera on hardboard. (Collection of Harvey and Harvey-Ann Ross. The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle/Artists Rights Society, New York), via Peabody Essex Museum.]]

[[Panel 8 (1954). Collection of Harvey and Harvey-Ann Ross. © The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, via Peabody Essex Museum.]]

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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