Whitney Meet Jacob Lawrence Jacob Lawrence's Art Learning Resources Tell Your Own Story Student Art and Stories
Home Help
What is a WEBQUEST?
Index of Webquests
Instructions for Educators
Lesson Plans
Webquest About Grades 9-12

Introduction  Task  Process  Resources  Evaluation  Reflection


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.

In 1917, when an aluminum plant in East St. Louis hired black workers during a strike, white workers rioted, terrorizing blacks on the street and setting fire to black homes. Two years later, riots erupted throughout the country during what became known as the  Red Summer of 1919 with the worst occuring over 13 days in Chicago, Illinois.

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

Back to the Beginning


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

  • Research the "Red Summer" riots of 1919 and other 20th-century protests. Assess the impact they have on society as a whole.

  • Use a media format to represent an experience of struggle.

  • Research and discuss how struggle is represented in various art forms, including theater, television, and writing.
Back to the Beginning

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 represented 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 struggles and conflicts? 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. Use the web resources below to find additional images of struggle.
    Compare these images with Jacob Lawrence's images of struggle.

  5. Discuss your findings with the class.

  6. Explore the web resources listed below. Beginning with the incident known as the Red Summer of 1919, trace major racial conflicts and protests in the United States throughout the 20th century.

  7. Find out why each of these conflicts began.

    What was the main cause of the conflict?
    What visual devices were used in the media to depict these struggles?

    Closely examine the source and bias that a particular resource may have in reporting an event.
    From what or whose perspective(s) were these struggles represented?
    What message is being communicated visually?
    How is this message communicated?
    What lines, shapes, colors, and objects are used to convey the message?
    How were these struggles presented in writing?
    Who is the intended audience?

    Compare these media images and texts with Jacob Lawrence's depictions.
    What similarities and differences can you find?
    What impact did these conflicts have on American society?

  8. Create a news report that covers one incident of your choice. It could be a double page magazine spread, a five-minute television broadcast, or a digital slide show with at least 20 images.

    Look at examples in news magazines, on television, or on the web to study how news stories are laid out and presented. Consider what images you will use and why. How will you represent struggle and conflict?

    Think about the captions you will write or narrate to accompany the pictures. For a TV broadcast, conduct an interview or a discussion about the event.

  9. Present and discuss your news reports with the class.
Back to the Beginning


Red Summer of 1919

Tulsa Riots of 1921

1943 Detroit race riots

Civil Rights Movement

Watts riots

Stonewall Uprising

L.A. Conflict


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.


Back to the Beginning


You will be evaluated on two elements: your participation in class discussions and questions; and the news report that covers one incident of your choice. Your teacher may also choose to create rubrics for evaluation.
  • Class Discussion Evaluation: Refer to the questions listed in the  Process section. Were you able to articulate the way Jacob Lawrence composed his paintings to represent the struggles of people in the face of adversity? Were you able to make an effective assessment of the impact that the Red Summer riots had on society? Did you identify visual devices used by the media to portray struggles and develop a solid understanding of how those devices are used? How many visual devices could you identify? Did you articulate qualitative comparisons between media images and text and Jacob Lawrence depictions?

  • News Report Evaluation: Did your news report demonstrate a thorough understanding of the content and did you choose appropriate imagery to represent the incident? Is written or verbal text that accompanies the imagery effective and appropriate?

  • Verbal or Written Text: Is there is a sharp, distinct focus on the topic, are ideas fully developed and sophisticated? Is there a deliberate and interesting style and organization, and does your writing use complex yet carefully written or spoken sentences?

  • Mechanics*: Is there evidence that you understand the conventions of a news report, using appropriate communications techniques for your chosen audience? Did you select relevant facts or quotations to support key points and answer the who, what, where, why and how, as well as included additional facts? Does the design or layout of your news report represent creativity and originality, while following the appropriate conventions of the chosen format?

  • *If you chose to do a news broadcast, you will also be evaluated on voice level, eye contact and pace of speech.

  •  Learning Standards Addressed
Back to the Beginning


Compare your news reports with Jacob Lawrence's images of struggle.
What do they have in common?
How are they different?

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.

Back to the Beginning

©2001 Whitney Museum of American Art