James Snead wrote in his essay “Repetition as a Figure in Black Culture” that repetitive words and rhythms have long been a focal component of African music and its American descendants, including blues, spiritual music, and jazz. Repetition is also a key component of African American literature and poetry, serving as a structural and rhythmic device, as seen in the sermon “The Blackness of Blackness” in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. Lawrence had an interest in jazz music and knew Ellison through Charles Alston, which sheds some light on his use of repetition throughout the Migration Series. He repeats certain words and colors to give the 60-panel opus the lively rhythm of a jazz composition, accelerating the momentum of the composition and highlighting the persistence and optimism of those migrating north.
Lawrence relies on a limited but vibrant palette throughout the series, with bright reds, yellows, and blues against the darker browns and greens. These bright colors provide another layer of rhythm, with each panel punctuated by carefully plotted, specific pops of color and forms, often repeated from one panel to the next, especially in similarly composed scenes such as those in the train station (e.g. Panels 1 and 12).