Real World History students visit MOMA to study Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series

August 24, 2015

(Photos: Sarah Hughes/Center for Inspired Teaching)

On August 20th, Real World History students kicked off the 2015-16 school year with a visit to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City to see One-Way Ticket, an exhibit featuring Jacob Lawrence’s complete Migration Series.

migration-series-momaLawrence’s series of paintings depicting the Great Migration, the 20th century mass movement of African Americans from the South to the North, has not been housed in one location for 20 years. The paintings are accompanied by poems, sketches, letters, and photographs from the period that provide even deeper insights into the lives of those who made the difficult decision to leave their homes.

Real World History students spent the afternoon viewing and discussing these paintings as they selected ones that appealed to them to discuss later in the classroom. Accompanying the students were several members of Mt. Sinai Baptist Church in Washington, DC; these Washingtonians have family members who moved during the Great Migration, and they will be interviewed by the students for oral history projects featuring local DC citizens with personal connections to the Great Migration.


By design, Real World History takes a step outside the traditional history classroom, bringing history alive for students from high schools across DC as they learn and practice the mindsets and skills of historians. In addition to their own oral history projects, in the first semester, the class will dive into The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, an award-winning account of the Great Migration, which features interviews with more than 1,200 individuals. In the second semester, students will intern at a number of the District’s museums and historical sites, having the opportunity for real world application of their skills and to explore professions in the field.

Marking the beginning of the second year of Real World History, the visit to MoMA brought to light multiple dimensions of a little-known migration that had a deep impact on the United States. Real World History is led by Inspired Teaching’s Cosby Hunt, a native Washingtonian and National Board Certified teacher who taught high school social studies in DC public schools for more than a decade. Learn more about Real World History here.

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