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In the Classroom > Picturing America Lessons > American Migrations

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Suggested Answers for "American Migrations" Questions

Answers to Examining Expressive Content Questions for "Migrant Mother, 1936"

What catches your eye about this woman?

her fingers to her chin, mouth, eyes, expression, it isn't the common way a mother appears with young children- usually they all face the camera; by framing Florence's face with her children's heads and her dark hair, the viewer's eye is better drawn to her face.

What do you read in her posture and position with fingers to chin?

apprehension, worry, anxiety, weariness, the inability to provide more than her shoulders for her children to lean on

What do the positions of her children tell you?

shy, scared, dependent upon their mother, needing comfort and attention

What makes this image so intriguing and powerful?

Florence's expression, the emotion behind her expression and the stances of her children; the subject is very close- in your face, giving the viewer an intimate look; the lack of color adds power to the image and makes details such as dirty fingers and dull hair more noticeable

Answers to Teaching Plan Questions for "Migrant Mother, 1936"

1. What does "migration" mean?

to move from one place to another

2. Tell students the photo was taken in 1936 in California. What was going on in this country then?

the Great Depression

Answers to Examining Expressive Content Questions for "The Migration Series, No. 57, 1940-1941"

This painting measures only 12 x 18 inches, yet it effectively catches the eye. How did Lawrence achieve that? What effect does that have on the image? For instance, if he had chosen softer, muted colors and less distinct lines, how would that change the effect of the image, given its size, and its message?

He used bright, clean colors and distinct lines to catch the eye. The contrast of colors, especially between the white of the woman's dress and the colors around her make one notice the image. The bright colors and distinct lines add power to the image and its message. With muted colors and less distinct lines, a painting of this size might not be near as noticeable if it was on display alone or with bigger paintings.

You can see his brush strokes in some sections. What do those add to the painting?

a sense that the woman is in motion

What does Lawrence do to focus your eye on this woman, who is a laundress?

He makes her white dress stand out by surrounding her with darker colors; he makes her shape triangular as compared to the rectangles and softer shapes around her.

What might the laundress's very straight and upright laundry stick symbolize about her?

According to the notes about the painting in the Picturing America Teachers Resource Book, the washing stick adds a "powerful stabilizing force in the painting, and a visual metaphor for her strength and determination."

Examine No. 14-17 and no. 22 from "The Migration Series". How does Lawrence use color to direct the eye to what he considers important? Note examples where the viewer's eye moves back and forth because of Lawrence's color choices.

He places bright colors strategically and carefully. Examples: #22- the eye moves from yellow handcuffs to black bars; #17- the yellow hat and remarkable blue tablet of paper catch the eye and then make one notice the expressions on those faces (notice that the black hook points to the man in charge); #15- the eye moves from the slumped figure in red to the black noose

Compare the colors used in this set of images to those used in the image of the laundress.

they are darker, murkier

Compare the mood of this set of images to the one with the laundress

the mood of this set of images is also darker, more somber, sadder, desperate

Answers to Teaching Plan Questions for "The Migration Series, No. 57, 1940-1941"

2. Note why so many people left the south, how their lives did or didn't improve in the north, and life in their new homes.

Reasons for leaving the south- racism and bad treatment by whites, segregation, lack of jobs and low pay, weather had ruined farms, food was expensive, poor housing, no justice in courts, lives in danger, poor education, children worked, women not treated well, young men felt powerless, lynchings, had to pay too much respect to whites, were called the "n" word

Improvements- reverse of conditions noted above; although food was still expensive, jobs paid higher wages, allowed to vote

Lack of improvement- still some segregation, some overcrowding and unsanitary living conditions, riots caused by northerners and southerners competing for the same jobs, Northern African-Americans didn't always take kindly to the new southern arrivals and sometimes looked down their noses at them

Feelings about living in the north- pride, self-reliance, challenged, strength, bravery, optimism, relief, determination, hope, gratefulness

List the similarities and differences between the dustbowl refugees who went west and African-Americans who participated in the Great Migration north.

Similarities- lack of work and forces of nature made both groups decide to move; both groups were striving to improve their lives

Differences- many African-Americans did improve their lives when they moved north but many dustbowl refugees did not improve theirs by moving west. In fact, until the dust storms hit, many peoples' living conditions were better before they migrated. "Okies" and "Arkies" arrived in such numbers to CA that Mexican and Japanese migrants had to move elsewhere for work.

What has caused and still causes people in this country to migrate to other parts of the country? What pushes them? What pulls migrants to a particular place or region?

Reasons for migrating away from an area- economy-jobs, discrimination, spent resources such as land, increasing population, natural disasters; reasons to migrate to an area- opportunity, sometimes community and family ties

Give an example of a migration that occurred before the 20th c.

Westward expansion

Do migrations still happen here today? If you answered yes, give an example.

Hurricane Katrina

In regard to the impact on people, how do the 2 storms compare?

Katrina affected 15 million, Dust Bowl- thousands; both storms caused people to migrate, killed or made them sick (although not stated in the facts about Katrina, the polluted water made some people sick), damaged and/or destroyed homes and livelihoods, caused high unemployment, in both instances there were people who stayed put during the storm and after

In what ways has the nation gotten better at helping people affected by such huge natural disasters? In what ways has it not changed?

We are better at predicting the weather, giving people a heads-up and forcing evacuations; we have a wider network of organizations in our country and others that are willing to help; we have more organizations and systems to shelter and feed victims and to help them rebuild and find work

Not all of our organizations are successful in helping people; some Katrina victims still have no permanent homes or jobs. In many cases we still don't have enough funding or support for the victims of disasters.

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