As a young boy, Jacob Lawrence was confused and frustrated by the palpable absence of black leaders and history figures in his school lessons. While attending an after school program at the Utopia Children’s House in Harlem, Lawrence finally learned of such great figures as Toussaint L’Overture, Harriet Tubman and John Brown. In 1938, while working for the WPA Easel project, Lawrence had his opportunity and executed his first major series, Toussaint L’Overture. Finding the story much too complex for one image, Lawrence devised forty-one separate panels. This series attracted a lot of attention for the young artist and was shown at the Baltimore Museum of Art and the American Negro Exhibition in Chicago. Lawrence believed strongly that these stories should be told, not only as a part of black history, but as key moments in human history.
Between 1986 and 1997, Lawrence revisited his famous L’Ouverture series and reimagined it in print form. Working with Lou Stovall, master printer at Workshop Inc., Washington D.C, fifteen of the fort-one scenes were translated into silk screen prints and published by Amistad Research Center in New Orleans and Spradling Ames in Key West.
*PLEASE NOTE* the descriptions listed below each subject are those given to the works by Jacob Lawrence himself when he painted the original series in 1938.