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Past Exhibitions

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Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle

Mar 5 – May 23 2021

Seattle Art Museum

Simonyi Special Exhibition Galleries

This exhibition reunites Jacob Lawrence’s revolutionary 30-panel series Struggle . . . from the History of the American People (1954–56) for the first time since 1958.

One of the greatest narrative artists of the 20th century, Lawrence (1917–2000) is best known for The Migration Series (1940–41), exhibited at SAM from January 21 through April 23, 2017, which told the story of the mass exodus of African Americans from the rural south to the industrial North following World War II. Struggle is likewise a narrative work in series and engages key moments from the American Revolution and the early decades of the republic to address, as Lawrence put it, “the struggles of a people to create a nation and their attempt to build a democracy.” The 30 12- x 16-inch panels that comprise Struggle feature the words and actions of not only the founding fathers, but also of enslaved people, women, and Native Americans to address the diverse but mutually linked fortunes of all American constituencies engaged in the struggle. Taken as a whole, this remarkable series of paintings interprets and expresses the democratic debates that defined early America and still resonate today.

New work created for the exhibition by Derrick Adams, Bethany Collins, and Hank Willis Thomas reinforce the timeliness of Struggle by engaging themes such as democracy, justice, truth, and the politics of inclusion.

Jacob Lawrence Teen Gallery Call for Entry

Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle will include a gallery dedicated to art by today’s youth imagining the 31st panel of Lawrence’s series, Struggle . . . from the History of the American People. Artists between the ages of 13–21 are invited to submit their artwork that considers the themes of the series and depicts the contemporary and ongoing American struggle. Submissions will be reviewed by SAM’s Teen Arts Group, an intensive program for high school–aged youth who are interested in leadership and want to make SAM fun and engaging for teens. The deadline is January 8. Send us your submissions!

Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle is organized by the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts.

This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Presenting Sponsor


Lead Sponsor


Supporting Sponsor


Generous Support
Bette and David Sprague Exhibition Endowment

Image: We have no property! We have no wives! No children! We have no city! No country! —petition of many slaves, 1773, Panel 5, 1955, Jacob Lawrence, from Struggle: From the History of the American People, 1954–56, Collection of Harvey and Harvey-Ann Ross, © 2019 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Seattle Art Museum respectfully acknowledges that we are on Indigenous land, the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people. We honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future.

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