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Jacob Lawrence: The Legend of John Brown

January 10, 2024 - April 20, 2024

Jacob Lawrence: The Legend of John Brown
January 10-April 20, 2024

Jacob Lawrence (1917–2000) was an astute observer and storyteller who focused on the struggle for freedom and justice in America from the Civil War to the end of the 20th Century. His art successfully balanced modernism’s bold colors and forms with complex historical narratives. His series The Legend of John Brown consists of twenty-two serigraph, or silkscreen, prints that illustrate the story of the famous abolitionist. John Brown was most well known for his raid on a U.S. Military arsenal in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, but in this series, Jacob Lawrence focuses on numerous events from his life. Made in 1977, each serigraph was based on paintings of the same size that Lawrence created in 1941. The accompanying titles were given by the artist and based on a biography written about Brown in 1885 by journalist Franklin Sanbourn.

John Brown moved throughout the country helping enslaved and freed African Americans whenever he could. In 1855 Brown and his five sons moved to Kansas where he joined a number of anti slavery settlers to defend the land against pro slavery advocates. In an uprising Brown, with four of his sons and two accomplices, murdered five proslavery settlers. Justifying his action as obedience to the will of God, Brown soon became a hero in the eyes of northern fundamentalists. He later moved to Virginia and began planning his grand scheme to arm slaves for a rebellion. On October 16, 1859, Brown led 21 men on a raid of the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. His plan to collect weapons was thwarted by locals and Marines led by Robert E. Lee. Brown was captured, tried, convicted of treason, and sentenced to death. He was hanged on December 2, 1859. Many historians believe that Brown’s raid helped to accelerate the coming Civil War. On April 12, 1861, Confederate batteries opened fire on Fort Sumter, firing the first shots of the war. By 1865 the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution abolished slavery.

Opening Reception: January 10 5:30pm-7:30pm
Registration Requested but not required

Exhibition support provided by: 

This exhibition was organized by the Flint Institute of Arts, Flint, Michigan