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“There is so much healing to be done on the lands on which so many have fought and died for freedom. And we haven’t come close to addressing that healing that needs to be done. I feel that if you’re able to address what is happening to a people through art, that may be a way to begin a conversation and dialogue." —Jacqueline E. Lawton

The Migration Series On Stage

In this dynamic cross-disciplinary initiative, The Phillips Collection commissioned five plays from local playwrights in response to Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series. This commission was in relation to the exhibition People on the Move: Beauty and Struggle in Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series (October 8, 2016–January 8, 2017). The museum debuted the 10-minute, one-act plays as staged readings on October 20, 2016, and again on November 3, 2016. Director: Derek Goldman; Artistic Producer: Jacqueline E. Lawton; Dramaturg: Otis Ramsey-Zoë; Playwrights: Norman Allen, Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm, Annalisa Dias, Jacqueline E. Lawton, and Laura Shamas; Cast: Nora Achrati, Jeff Allin, Desmond Bing, JJ Johnson, Natalie Graves Tucker, and Craig Wallace. Videographers: Shaun Mir and Rob Migrin. Theater Consultant: Ann Greer. All plays © The Phillips Collection.

This project was made possible with generous support by Elaine Reuben. 

  • In Constant Pursuit by Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm

    In Constant Pursuit by Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm
    Inspired by Jacob Lawrence, The Migration Series, Panel No. 3: From Every Southern Town Migrants Left By The Hundreds to Travel North. [ 14:18 ]
  • #51 by Laura Shamas

    #51 by Laura Shamas
    Inspired by Jacob Lawrence, The Migration Series, Panel No. 51: African Americans seeking to find better housing attempted to move into new areas. This resulted in the bombing of their new homes. [ 6:51 ]
  • A Legacy of Chains by Annalisa Dias

    A Legacy of Chains by Annalisa Dias
    Inspired by Jacob Lawrence, The Migration Series, Panel No. 49: They found discrimination in the North. It was a different kind. [ 7:58 ]
  • A Long Arduous Journey by Jacqueline E. Lawton

    A Long Arduous Journey by Jacqueline E. Lawton
    Inspired by Jacob Lawrence, The Migration Series, Panel No. 13: The crops were left to dry and rot. There was no one to tend them. and Panel No. 25: They left their homes. Soon some communities were left almost empty. [ 8:18 ]
  • Baghdad Carpet by Norman Allen

    Baghdad Carpet by Norman Allen
    Inspired by Jacob Lawrence, The Migration Series, Panel No. 5: Migrants were advanced passage on the railroads, paid for by northern industry. Norther industry was to be repaid by the migrants out of their future wages. [ 7:06 ]

Contemporary Perspectives: Kinshasha Holman Conwill

Hear a mix of contemporary voices across disciplines address the significance of The Migration Series then and now. 

Kinshasha Holman Conwill is Deputy Director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. She formerly served as Director of The Studio Museum in Harlem, Senior Policy Advisor for the Museums & Community Initiative of the American Alliance of Museums, and Project Director for the New York City Leveraging Investments in Creativity (LINC) Creative Communities program. 

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    Kinshasha Holman Conwill
    Kinshasha Holman Conwill on Lawrence and the Harlem community [ 3:18 ]
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    Kinshasha Holman Conwill
    Kinshasha Holman Conwill on socio-historical context of The Migration Series [ 1:55 ]
  • Kinshasha Holman Conwill on contemporary significance of The Migration Series

    Kinshasha Holman Conwill
    Kinshasha Holman Conwill on contemporary significance of The Migration Series [ 2:10 ]
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    Kinshasha Holman Conwill
    Kinshasha Holman Conwill on the legacy of slavery and immigration in America [ 2:10 ]

Contemporary Perspectives: Spencer Crew

Hear a mix of contemporary voices across disciplines address the significance of The Migration Series then and now. 

Spencer Crew is Robinson Professor of American, African American, and Public History at George Mason Unviersity. He served as President of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center for six years and Director of the National Museum of American History for nine years.

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    Spencer Crew
    Spencer Crew on migration's impact on the civil rights movement [ 2:20 ]
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    Spencer Crew
    Spencer Crew on nuanced meaning in The Migration Series [ 2:07 ]
  • Spencer Crew on Panel 53 of The Migration Series

    Spencer Crew
    Spencer Crew on Panel 53 of The Migration Series [ 1:11 ]
    View Panel 53
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    Spencer Crew
    Spencer Crew on universal themes in The Migration Series [ 0:49 ]
  • Spencer Crew on Panel 30 of The Migration Series

    Spencer Crew
    Spencer Crew on Panel 30 of The Migration Series [ 0:43 ]
    View Panel 30
  • Spencer Crew on Panel 45 of The Migration Series

    Spencer Crew
    Spencer Crew on Panel 45 of The Migration Series [ 0:45 ]
    View Panel 45
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    Spencer Crew
    Spencer Crew on the powerful lessons in The Migration Series [ 0:44 ]
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    Spencer Crew
    Spencer Crew on what Panel 61 of The Migration Series might look like [ 1:41 ]

Contemporary Perspectives: David C. Driskell

Hear a mix of contemporary voices across disciplines address the significance of The Migration Series then and now. 

David C. Driskell is one of the world’s leading authorities on African American art. Trained as a painter and art historian, Driskell works primarily in collage, mixed media, and printmaking. He joined the faculty of the Department of Art at the University of Maryland in 1977 and served as its Chairman from 1978-1983. In 1998, the University of Maryland founded The David C. Driskell Center for the Study of the African Diaspora to pay homage to Driskell’s career as artist, educator, philanthropist, collector, and art historian.

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    David C. Driskell
    David C. Driskell on Alain Locke and Jacob Lawrence's distinctive style [ 1:58 ]
  • David C. Driskell on his personal ties to The Migration Series

    David Driskell
    David C. Driskell on his personal ties to The Migration Series [ 2:18 ]
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    David C. Driskell
    David C. Driskell on abstract language in The Migration Series [ 4:01 ]
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    David Driskell
    David C. Driskell on the significance and legacy of The Migration Series [ 4:03 ]
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    David C. Driskell
    David C. Driskell on how The Migration Series speaks to us all [ 1:46 ]

Contemporary Perspectives: John Edward Hasse

Hear a mix of contemporary voices across disciplines address the significance of The Migration Series then and now. 

John Edward Hasse is Curator of American Music at the National Museum of American History. As the biographer of Duke Ellington, the creator of Jazz Appreciation Month, the founder of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, a Grammy-nominated writer on music, and an accomplished musician himself, Hasse is a global voice for American jazz music.

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    John Edward Hasse
    John Edward Hasse on musical associations with The Migration Series [ 1:17 ]
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    John Edward Hasse
    John Edward Hasse on 1930s blues [ 1:15 ]
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    John Edward Hasse
    John Edward Hasse on Harlem's jazz legend Duke Ellington [ 2:06 ]
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    John Edward Hasse
    John Edward Hasse on the migration of musical traditions from the South to the North [ 1:17 ]
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    John Edward Hasse
    John Edward Hasse on significance of The Migration Series [ 1:05 ]
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    John Edward Hasse
    John Edward Hasse on Washington, DC's music scene in the 1930s [ 1:15 ]

Contemporary Perspectives: Jacqueline E. Lawton

Hear a mix of contemporary voices across disciplines address the significance of The Migration Series then and now. 

Jacqueline E. Lawton was named one of 30 of the nation’s leading black playwrights by Arena Stage’s American Voices New Play Institute. Lawton received her MFA in Playwriting from the University of Texas at Austin as a James A. Michener Fellow. Her plays include: Anna KBlood-bound and Tongue-tied; Deep Belly Beautiful; and Noms de Guerre. Lawton is an Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina in Chapel, a dramaturg at PlayMakers Repertory Theatre Company, and a member of the Dramatist Guild of America.

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    Jacqueline E. Lawton
    Jacqueline E. Lawton on relevance of Lawrence's Migration Series today [ 2:29 ]
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    Jacqueline Lawton
    Jacqueline E. Lawton on storytelling in The Migration Series [ 2:00 ]
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    Jacqueline Lawton
    Jacqueline E. Lawton on theatricality of The Migration Series [ 2:44 ]
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    Jacqueline E. Lawton
    Jacqueline E. Lawton on community and The Migration Series [ 0:34 ]
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    Jacqueline E. Lawton
    Jacqueline E. Lawton on personal ties to The Migration Series [ 3:32 ]

Contemporary Perspectives: E. Ethelbert Miller

Hear a mix of contemporary voices across disciplines address the significance of The Migration Series then and now. 

E. Ethelbert Miller is a writer and literary activist. He is the author of several collections of poems and two memoirs and the Board Chair of the Institute for Policy Studies. In April 2015, Miller was inducted into the Washington, DC, Hall of Fame. The Association of Writers & Writing Progams (AWP) presented Miller with the 2016 George Garrett Award for Outstanding Community Service in Literature. His most recent book, The Collected Poems of E. Ethelbert Miller, edited by Kirsten Porter, was published by Willow Books in 2016.

  • E. Ethelbert Miller on DC migrant community and ongoing patterns of reverse migration

    E. Ethelbert Miller
    E. Ethelbert Miller on DC migrant community and ongoing patterns of reverse migration [ 0:43 ]
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    E. Ethelbert Miller
    E. Ethelbert Miller on Langston Hughes as a poet of the Great Migration [ 2:03 ]
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    E. Ethelbert Miller
    E. Ethelbert Miller reading an excerpt from Langston Hughes's The Big Sea [ 1:30 ]
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    E. Ethelbert Miller
    E. Ethelbert Miller on the educational value of The Migration Series [ 0:57 ]
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    E. Ethelbert Miller
    E. Ethelbert Miller on how Lawrence would paint the theme of migration today [ 1:11 ]

Contemporary Persepctives: Lou Stovall

Hear a mix of contemporary voices across disciplines address the significance of The Migration Series then and now. 

Lou Stovall has been credited by artists and critics alike with helping to transform the concept of silkscreen printmaking from a commercial craft to a true art form. He is also an accomplished draftsman, as well as a designer and builder of fine furniture. His drawings and silkscreen prints have earned him grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Stern Family Fund. His current series of silkscreen collages, Vertical Views, is his latest innovation in the medium. Since 1962, he has lived and worked in Washington, DC.

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    Lou Stovall on Jacob Lawrence’s Toussaint L’Ouverture prints
    Lou Stovall on Jacob Lawrence’s Toussaint L’Ouverture prints [ 1:26 ]
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    Lou Stovall
    Lou Stovall on Lawrence's contribution to modern art [ 2:02 ]
  • Lou Stovall on Lawrence as social commentator in The Migration Series

    Lou Stovall
    Lou Stovall on Lawrence as social commentator in The Migration Series [ 1:43 ]
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    Lou Stovall on Jacob Lawrence’s Toussaint L’Ouverture prints
    Lou Stovall on process of creating prints for Jacob Lawrence [ 2:20 ]
  • Lou Stovall on Panel 53 of The Migration Series

    Lou Stovall
    Lou Stovall on Panel 53 of The Migration Series [ 0:59 ]
    View Panel 53
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    Lou Stovall
    Lou Stovall on what Panel 61 of The Migration Series might look like [ 1:29 ]