The great migration: An American story

Lawrence, Jacob

Publication date: Lawrence, J. (1993). The great migration: An American story. New York: Harper Collins Publishers.
Publisher: Lawrence, J. (1993). The great migration: An American story. New York: Harper Collins Publishers.


One of the first manifestations of dreams in this text set occurs in Jacob Lawrence’s beautifully illustrated book. In the early 1910s many Blacks fled the Southern states to the Northern cities in search of a better life and greater economic and social opportunities. Jacob Lawrence’s colorful illustrations explain the movement depicting the bleak conditions and violence that plagued many groups of migrants, and the resounding hope that carried them through. One of the most prevalent themes throughout the book is the dream of a better life for the travelers, and the hope that, despite all of the bad, something good will emerge. Lawrence’s book is important as it explains the journey to Harlem and other Northern cities. The movement into Harlem prompted the cultural and creative uprising at the heart of the text set.


Students will be very interested in reading the text, primarily because the text is not the focus of the book. Students will see in vivid color the cultural struggle to find a better life. This book would be especially engaging for students who enjoy art, color, and vivid portraits. Though the book is intended for below grade or struggling readers, Lawrence’s portrayal of the migration would be appropriate for grade level and above grade level readers as well. The book contains mostly Lawrence’s paintings, which depict hard images of violence and segregation, yet the information is relevant for all age groups. The information is presented in a way that is not “dumbed-down.”

Use in Class

Since many History classes touch on the topic of the migration, we will complete a KWL, so students can relate their previous knowledge of the Great Migration and of migration in general to a new context. The KWL will also ensure that students comprehend the material. I will read this book aloud to my students. After the reading, we will discuss important concepts and issues that the book raises.

Unit Focus


Submitted by Lindsey Wells

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