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Migration and Immigration

Introduction  Task  Process  Resources  Evaluation  Reflection


In 1940-41 artist Jacob Lawrence created a sixty-panel narrative of The Migration of the Negro (The Migration Series) based on research as well as the experience of his family, and the recollections of people in his community. This powerful portrayal of migration depicts the struggle, strength, and perseverance of African Americans who, between 1900 and the 1930s moved from rural agricultural communities of the South to the industrial cities of the North and Midwest in search of a better life.

Moving from one country, region, or place to settle in another.

Moving from one's native land to a country in order to settle there permanently.

African Americans used to be identified as negroes. Negro is an old fashioned term used to refer to people of African descent, living in the Americas and the Caribbean.

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In this webquest you will:
  • Look at how Jacob Lawrence documented the Great Migration.

  • Research and examine stories of migration and immigration.

  • Trace your own history of migration or immigration or interview an adult who has migrated or immigrated to the United States.

  • Use your interview notes to create a pictorial essay of the interviewee.
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During the World War there was a great migration North by Southern Negroes.

The Migration of the Negro, panel 1, 1940-41
Casein tempera on hardboard
18 x 12 in. (45.7 x 30.5 cm)
The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.
© Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence, courtesy of the Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation
  1. Look at  Jacob Lawrence's painting, panel #1 from The Migration Series. Move your mouse over the painting and find questions to discuss with your classmates.

  2. Read the information about  Jacob Lawrence's painting, panel #1 from The Migration Series.

  3. (a) You are getting ready to migrate or immigrate. Write an account of your move from one place or country to another. Or (b) Interview an adult in your family or community who has immigrated to this country, or migrated from one place to another in the United States.

  4. Explore the web resources below to find out how others have documented migration or immigration.

  5. Use the questions below for your own narrative, or use them for your interview. Invent your own questions too. Take notes.

  6. Questions to consider for your interview:

    Where were you born?
    Where did you grow up?
    Do you have family or friends who live in other cities or other countries?
    Where do some of your relatives live?
    How long have you lived here?
    Where do you think of as home?

    Have you ever moved from one place to another? From where to where? One place? More than one place? Another country? A different state or city? A different part of the state or city?
    Why did your family choose to move here?

    What were your family's concerns about migrating or immigrating?
    What were your concerns?
    What were your family's expectations about migrating or immigrating?
    What were your expectations?

    Why did you leave the place where you were?
    What were you thinking about as you were getting ready to move?
    How did you feel when you left?
    What did you bring with you?
    What did you leave behind?

    What do you remember about when you first came here?
    What challenges did you face?
    How did you overcome these challenges?
    What has changed in your life since you moved here? How has it changed?
    In what ways have you changed since you moved here?

  7. If you can, find photographs of yourself or the person you interviewed, or make drawings to illustrate your story.

    Create your pictorial essay on paper, as a web page, or as a PowerPoint presentation.

  8. View and discuss your migration or immigration narratives with the class.
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Seven letters from the Northern newspaper, the Chicago Defender, expressing the desire of Southern African Americans to migrate North.

Letters of the Great Migration.

Links, articles, images that address many aspects of the Great Migration.

Documents the movement of African Americans from the Mississippi Delta to Chicago, with related subjects.


Teen Story about Immigration.

Personal stories of immigration.

Written by Cuban immigrants.

A brief background about immigration in America.

Discover immigrant life in America while playing the role of a historian detective.

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You will be evaluated on the pictorial essay that you create of yourself, or based on an interview with an adult who has migrated or immigrated to the United States. Your teacher may also choose to create rubrics for evaluation.
  • Class Discussion Evaluation: Refer back to the questions listed in the  Process section. Whether your pictorial essay is about yourself or someone else, does it address and include information about all the questions listed? Did you develop your own questions as well? Does it include factual information, as well as personal information such as thoughts, feelings and emotions about the migration or immigration?

  • How were the challenges faced, overcome, and how has the person changed since the move?

  • What kinds of images did you use to accompany your essay? Are the photographs or drawings relevant to the message that you communicate?

  • Is your essay well written and does it show evidence of creativity and originality?

  • If you created a multimedia media presentation that uses sound, how does the sound affect and enhance the essay? How might different music (if applicable) convey a different meaning?

  •  Learning Standards Addressed

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Compare your migration or immigration narrative with the accounts that you found on the Internet. What is similar? What is different?

Use the web and your school or local library to research how migrants and immigrants were welcome or unwelcome in the United States 100 years ago. Research how immigrants are received in the US today.

Have perceptions about immigrants changed over the past 100 years? How?
What challenges do immigrants face today?
What impact do immigrants have on contemporary society?

Discuss your findings with the class.

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©2001 Whitney Museum of American Art