Jacob Lawrence Books

Jacob Lawrence is the most notable African American artist of the 20th century. He dedicated his life to artistically representing the struggles and triumphs of African American people throughout history. With the books on this list, you can bring Lawrence’s art right into your own home. Each book provides the perfect jumping-off point for talking to your children about expressing themselves and influencing societal change through art.

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Jake Makes a World: Jacob Lawrence, an Artist in Harlem Sharifa Rhodes-Pitt

See the sights, sounds, and colors that inspired Jacob Lawrence as a child. This book describes his mother’s house, the men playing checkers outside his building, the people on the streets. Through all of this, children will get a real feel for how Lawrence incorporated his world into this art. The Illustrations mirror Lawrence’s own bold colors and expressionist shapes. It’s a vibrant picture book that will inspire preschoolers and early elementary children.

Jacob Lawrence: Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists Mike Venezia

This series is a favorite of art teachers and parents alike. In this edition, kids will get a front-row seat to the life and work of Jacob Lawrence. They will laugh at the cartoon illustrations and jokes, but they will be learning about Lawrence’s art on every page. The book explains Lawrence’s artistic style and includes full-color reproductions of some of his most famous paintings. Read this one alongside your elementary-aged children.

The Great Migration Jacob Lawrence

In this book, Lawrence’s series of paintings by the same name is brought together with poetic text that describes the struggles and strength of the millions of African Americans who moved north. The text is simple, but significant. It’s a terrific introduction to this often forgotten time in American history. Kids as young as five years old can understand the story and appreciate the paintings.

Black Heroes: 51 Inspiring People from Ancient Africa to Modern-Day U.S.A. Arlisha Norwood

Read 51 fascinating biographies in this book that features heroes from several continents and time periods. From King Tut to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., you’ll explore the life and work of people like George Washington Carver, Jesse Owens, Miles Davis, and others. This book does an excellent job of pointing out how these heroes, like Jacob Lawrence, worked to change the circumstances around them and positively impact the world. The biographies are reasonably brief, making this book a good pick for elementary students.

Harriet and the Promised Land Jacob Lawrence

See the story of Harriet Tubman like you’ve never seen it before. This book features Lawrence’s striking paintings that depict Tubman and her escape from slavery. The rhythmic story doesn’t use much text, but it conveys an incredibly powerful message. It’s a beautiful book that introduces the topics of slavery and freedom to young children in elementary school.

Story Painter: The Life of Jacob Lawrence John Duggleby

With this award-winning book, kids can page through the details of Jacob Lawrence’s life while studying his paintings at the same time. The biography explains Lawrence’s childhood, his artistic style, and his desire to portray the legacies of African Americans. There are 25 full-color reproductions in the book in order to make his paintings truly accessible to young children. This one is best for children 8 to 12 years old.

A History of Pictures for Children David Hockney and Martin Gayford

Use this book to help kids trace art history from cave drawings to the present day. Colorful cartoon-like art sits alongside famous artwork as the authors explain various artistic techniques and styles. A bit of information about the artists is included, too. This one is sure to spark curiosity and ignite creativity in children. It’s recommended for children ages 8 to 13.

Jacob Lawrence: A Painter’s Story Sneed B. Collard

This book invites kids to take a closer look at Jacob Lawrence’s life by studying some of his greatest paintings. His Migration series is the highlight of the book, and other paintings and photos are included too. The author describes Lawrence’s experiences in Harlem, his time in the Coast Guard, and other key events in the painter’s life. It’s an insightful biography for 2nd - 5th graders to read.

Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series MoMA

Produced by New York City’s Museum of Modern Art, this book provides a collection of essays alongside reproductions of each of the 60 panels of the Migration series. There are also 11 poems that were recently written about the series. The book is nearly 200 pages long, and the text is best suited for middle school children and adults. However, the book is great resource to use in showing children of any age the entire Migration series.

Timelines from Black History: Leaders, Legends, Legacies Mireille Harper

This book provides 30 artistically designed timelines that highlight the lives of prominent African Americans and important cultural movements. From ancient African kingdoms to the Civil Rights Movement, the level of detail in this book is astonishing! Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., LeBron James, Sarah Breedlove, and Maya Angelou are just a few of the people who are featured. Preteens and young teenagers will pore over this one for hours!

Jacob Lawrence: American Painter Ellen Harkins Wheat

This is a comprehensive biography of Jacob Lawrence and his work. Along with a thorough discussion of his life and inspiration, the book includes more than 150 illustrations of his work and several photos of him. You’ll find reproductions and a discussion of the work he completed later in his life, too. This is a great book to look at page-by-page with children who are interested in Lawrence’s artistic style.

Black Refractions: Highlights from The Studio Museum in Harlem Various Authors

This book is based on a traveling art exhibit by the same name. It dives into more than one hundred pieces of art from The Studio Museum in Harlem and provides a detailed commentary for each work. The book takes you through black art from the 1930s to present day. It’s a great resource to have on hand so that children can page through and study each piece at their own pace.

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