2008-02-29 / Community

Museum Of Modern Art Brings Black History To Far Rockaway Library

By Miriam Rosenberg

At left: With a photo of artist Jacob Lawrence in the background, Jennifer Katanic, of the Museum of Modern Art, begins the lecture. Also seen is the first panel from the series that shows blacks heading north to Chicago, New York and St. Louis, around World War I as well as Detroit, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Photos by Miriam Rosenberg
As part the Queens Library's monthlong celebration of Black History Month, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), brought the images of artist Jacob Lawrence to Far Rockaway last weekend with a lecture and slide show on his acclaimed Migration Series (1941) that depicts the migration of African-Americans from the Southern to the Northern states during the first half of the 20th century.

The 60 panels of the series depict the reasons why blacks left the Southern states, such as poverty, natural disasters, and lynchings; and the hardships and triumphs they encountered when they settled in the North.

"He [Lawrence] wanted to teach us about African-American and American history," said Jennifer Katanic of the museum, who said that Lawrence's own parents were part of an early wave of migrants who headed north.

While blacks who came north found jobs, there was often tension between them and white workers, because blacks were often used as strike breakers, causing race riots in many northern cities. In addition, the plentiful housing soon became overcrowded and in Harlem the death rates rose.
MoMA and the Whitney Museum of American Art each own 50 percent of the series.
One of the biggest reasons blacks came north was to give their children an education. "They came north for full participation - education, to vote and to put the past behind them," said MoMA's Katanic.
Katanic answers questions following the lecture.
The first two paintings show some of the natural disasters, such as flooding and cotton crops that were attacked by Bo weevils, which sent blacks north. The last panel shows a bare table representing the poverty they faced.
Despite the problems they faced in the North, Lawrence captioned his final panel "And the migrants kept com- ing."

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