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Lawrence, Jacob, 1917-2000

Summary Article: Lawrence, Jacob from Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance
Jacob Lawrence is arguably one of the most important American artists of the twentieth century. Although he was not active during the Harlem Renaissance, his work directly reflects the importance of Harlem both as a place and as an artistic community. Lawrence was born in 1917 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the eldest child of Jacob and Rosa Lee Lawrence. His father worked as a railroad cook but in 1919 moved the family to Easton, Pennsylvania, in order to seek work as a coal miner. Lawrence’s parents separated when he was seven, and in 1924 his mother moved the children to Philadelphia, where, because of the types of jobs she held—primarily live-in domestic work—they spent time in and out of foster homes. They moved to Harlem when Lawrence was twelve years old. In Harlem, he spent many hours listening to relatives and neighbors describe their lives in the South and their journey northward, themes that would later appear in his art. Shortly after his arrival in Harlem—because h...    Continue Reading

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