Jacob Lawrence, The 1920's... The Migrants Arrive and Cast Their Ballots
Jacob Lawrence's print The 1920's... The Migrants Arrive and Cast Their Ballots shows African Americans in the process of voting. Here voting is not treated as the result of over a century of fighting and oppression, but as a joyful social activity rendered in bright colors, where male and female figures of varying ages interact with one another while serving their civic duty.
Lawrence's earlier depiction of African Americans in the North voting, a part of the Migration Series of 1940-41, notably depicts the line of voters facing a potential threat from a white police officer, recalling the state-sanctioned intimidation faced by African American voters in the late 19th and 20th centuries. However, given the celebratory nature of the Lorillard-sponsored project, and taking into account the recent advances made as a result of the 1965 Civil Rights Act, we can understand the shift to a more nostalgic rendering.
Question to ponder:
To this day, African Americans continue to face difficulties in casting votes, such as the closing of polling places in areas with largely Black populations. If Jacob Lawrence were to create a new version of this work today, would his depiction of African Americans voting change again?