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Webquest About Grades 6-8

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During the Great Migration, northern white workers instigated race riots due to antagonism over labor competition with southern black migrants. In this painting, Jacob Lawrence pared down the composition and used diagonal shapes and movements to heighten the action and create a powerful visual statement about struggle.

Jacob Lawrence continued to address ideas about struggle in three subsequent series of works: War, 1946-47, Struggle…From the History of the American People, 1955-56, and Hiroshima, 1983.

A violent public disorder or disturbance that occurs when a group of three or more people assemble and act with a common intent.

A symbol is something--usually a sign or an object--that represents or stands for something else. For example, flags are symbols for countries and hearts are symbols for love.

A single or repeated theme, design, or color.

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In this webquest you will:
  • Consider the way Jacob Lawrence composed his paintings to represent the struggles of people in the face of adversity.

  • Use visual and compositional devices such as shapes and symbols to communicate an experience of struggle.

  • Research and discuss how struggle is represented in various art forms, including theater, television, and writing.
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Race riots were very numerous all over the North because of the antagonism that was caused between the Negro and white workers. Many of these riots occurred because the Negro was used as a strike breaker in many of the Northern industries.

The Migration of the Negro, panel 50, 1940-41
Casein tempera on hardboard
18 x 12 in. (45.7 x 30.5 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York; gift of Mrs. David M. Levy
© Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence, courtesy of the Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation
  1. Look at  Jacob Lawrence's painting, panel #50 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 #50 from The Migration Series.

  3. Go to  http://www.jacoblawrence.org/art04.html, scroll down to the "series" box and select a series from the pull down menu. Click on SUBMIT. Click on the thumbnail picture to see a large image.

    Look at Jacob Lawrence's series of works: War, Hiroshima, and Struggle…From the History of the American People.

    As you look at these images, consider how Jacob Lawrence represents the struggles of people in the face of adversity, and answer the questions below. Take notes.

    What symbols has Lawrence used to portray the tragedy of Hiroshima? World War II? Earlier battles? Make a list.

    What compositional devices did Lawrence use to convey a sense of struggle and conflict?

    What shapes or objects are exaggerated? Why?
    How did Lawrence use line and shapes to convey a feeling of action?
    What palette of colors did he use?
    How does color communicate emotion in these works?
    Do these series have anything in common? What can you find?

  4. Discuss your findings with the class.

  5. What emotions do you express during times of struggle?
    Which body language or gestures do you use? Why?

  6. Draw or paint an experience of struggle. Choose one of the following:

    An historical struggle.
    The struggle of someone you know.
    A personal struggle that you have experienced.

    Use symbols, motifs, and compositional devices that you have explored in Jacob Lawrence's work.

  7. View and discuss your drawings or paintings with the class.

    What do they have in common?
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Film stills




Click on Delacroix in the left hand frame. Then click on Horses Fighting in a Stable,1860, and The Battle of Tailleburg (draft), 1834-35.



Read the poem One Thousand Cranes on this website.

Read the story of Sadako Sasaki, a young victim of the Hiroshima atomic bomb disaster.

The Legacy Project articulates a global exchange on the enduring consequences of the many historical tragedies of the 20th century.

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You will be evaluated on two elements: your participation in class discussions about struggle; and your drawing or painting about an experience of struggle.
  • Class Discussion Evaluation: Refer to the questions listed in the  Process section. Did you show evidence of thoughtful comparisons between Jacob Lawrence's depictions of struggle and those of other images you found in your web research? Did your comparisons address both content and composition, and a thorough understanding of each? Did you demonstrate an understanding of how scenes of struggle are portrayed differently in still versus moving images and across other genres?

  • Struggle Evaluation: Does the visual representation you created represent creativity, originality and a personal style?

  • What kinds of unique or interesting symbols, motifs or compositional devices did you use to represent struggle?

  • How does it compare in style, composition and content to Jacob Lawrence and other images of struggle you examined?

  •  Learning Standards Addressed
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Compare your own or other's experiences of struggle with those in the Migration Series, the Hiroshima Series and the War Series.

What have you learned about how you and other people handle the challenge of struggle, especially during times of adversity?

Use the web resources above to take a look at scenes of struggle in television, film, and theater.

How do actors, actresses, and cartoon or animated characters use their bodies to represent struggle?

How do directors create a scene or a sense of struggle? Consider lighting, angles, action, etc.

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©2001 Whitney Museum of American Art