NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Between 1915 and the 1950s, some 6 million black Americans left the rural South for the cities of the North, Midwest and California.

This great migration is now the subject of an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art through Sept. 7.

As WCBS 880’s Jane Tillman Irving reported, the artist Jacob Lawrence was only 23 years old in 1941 when he made his series, called “The Migration of the Negro,” telling the story in abstract, stylized paintings full of color, movement and words.

“The works are 60 panels, each with a caption,” said Museum of Modern Art Curator Leah Dickerman. “With an opening scene that shows people crowded up in the train station looking at ticket counters that are labeled Chicago, New York and St. Louis.”

Lawrence painted the intolerable conditions that many were fleeing.

“Floods and extreme poverty, things like boll weevil and also racial violence,” Dickerman explained.

The North did not turn out to be utopia, but it was far, far better, Irving reported. In the final 60th panel, people wait for another train with the caption “And the migrants kept coming.”

 

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