Post based primarily on Story Painter, the life of Jacob Lawrence by John Duggleby
America is the country that it is because of the characters that live, (and lived) here. This story was told by John Duggleby, won a Carter Woodson and Smithsonian award so it amplifies Jacob’s amazing life. If you have never heard of Jabob Lawrence, a Google images search will bring a smile to your lips.
He was born to a poor African American family in 1917 at a time most people of color lived in the South. But change was afoot, the greatest move North since the Civil War itself. His parents Rose and Jacob found that life in the North was not easy, jobs were scarce. His father left the family when he was seven leaving his mother to care for him and his brother and sister. His mother left to find work in New York, but didn’t have enough money to send for her children for three years, but finally the kinds rejoined her in Harlem. Jake struggled in school and play with other children, but found peace in art. He developed a folksy style that depicted life in the 1930s in Harlem. Great speaker/historians like Allen and Seyfert and other speakers in Harlem were the source of his inspiration and education.
People began to appreciate and show his works, not in powerhouse galleries or museums at this point, but the Harlem YMCA and library. His big break was a government program called The Easel Project. He was being paid to paint. Those paintings are lost sadly. Nevertheless, with the time to focus on art, he began to develop campaigns or a series of related paintings to tell a story.
In 1940 he began the series that would make him famous, the Migration of the Negro. A year later he married his fellow art student Gwen. The series was found by gallery owner Edith Halpert and soon after purchased by the New York Museum of Modern Art and Phillips Collection in Washington DC. After a stint in the US Navy where Carlton Skinner noticed his talent and added painting Navy life to his official duties. He continued painting, Halpert continued selling and he was soon recognized not as a black artist, but a great artist and this being the 1940s was a great, (and needed), contribution to our culture. In 1970 he did a portrait of Jesse Jackson for Time magazine.
In the same way art teachers in Harlem had encouraged and guided him in his youth, Jacob gave back by teaching art including at the University of Washington where he became a full professor in 1971. His great honors include being invited to attend and paint Jimmy Carter’s inauguration and having a painting chosen by the Pope for the Vatican.
Jacob would love attending SANS Rocky Mountain 2017 to tell the story of the creative and skilled subculture of cybersecurity professionals. Stephen Northcutt is Director, Academic Advising at SANS.EDU.