UGL Features Black History Month Display Featuring the Work of African American Artist Jacob Lawrence

In celebration of Black History Month, the Wayne State Library System and Art Collection are proud to present a text and visual display highlighting “The Legend of John Brown,” a remarkable suite of 22 silkscreen prints created by renowned African American artist, Jacob Lawrence, that are exhibited on the second floor of the David Adamany Undergraduate Library.

On view throughout the month of February, the display is located in the atrium of the UGL and was developed to provide a broader understanding and appreciation of this important work of art from the university’s permanent art collection.

In his lifetime Lawrence (1917-2000) produced works of art marked with a sense of the human struggle for dignity and the fight for freedom and justice. It was in his dramatic graphic biographies of abolitionists such as John Brown, Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman that Lawrence combined his powerful visual language with the remembered stories of legendary civil rights figures he read while growing up in 1930’s Harlem.

The abolitionist leader and subject of this suite of prints, John Brown was found guilty of treason and murder in the first degree after his unsuccessful attempt to capture the arsenal at Harpers Ferry. Brown was hung in Charles Town, Virginia in 1859. The death of John Brown further incited groups on both sides of the issue and in 1861 the Civil War began.

The display offers historical notes, illustrations and offers insights into the life and creative processes of the artist Jacob Lawrence; the convictions of abolitionist John Brown and the Detroit writer Robert Hayden who contributed his poem “John Brown” to the 1978 suite.

A handout will be available for visitors who wish to view the informational display as well as the entire suite of prints. The handout will include titles and wall locations for each print on the 2nd floor of the library.

This is an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) student project. Special thanks to Sara Quimby and Ian Chapp for their contributions.

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