NARRATOR: Crouching before a stylized tank, soldiers hold their guns with bayonets in position. In the foreground, other men carry the wounded away from the lines of battle.
JACOBLAWRENCE: This is owned by the Whitney Museum of American Art. It’s the War Series. There are fourteen paintings in the series, and these are several of those paintings.
NARRATOR: This is the eighth panel in Jacob Lawrence’s War Series. It depicts the horror and confusion of combat. Lawrence made a point of showing black and white servicemen together. This reflects his experience in World War II. He served with the U.S. Coast Guard, which was then part of the Navy. Artist Jacob Lawrence.
JACOBLAWRENCE: I served on the USS Sea Cloud, which was a weather patrol ship, and I served on the United States Richardson, which was a troop transport.
NARRATOR: Like most African American sailors, Lawrence was initially classified as a steward’s mate—essentially, a servant for white officers. But his first captain, Lieutenant Commander Carlton Skinner, made his ship, the Sea Cloud, the first fully integrated vessel in the U.S. Navy. Captain Skinner helped Lawrence obtain a public relations rating. This allowed him to paint on duty, as ship’s artist.
Lawrence painted not only battle but its consequences at home. One of the paintings in his 1947 War Series shows a dark interior and the abstracted figure of a woman. It’s called Casualty: The Secretary of War Regrets. To hear about it, please tap your screen.