Panel 1 from Jacob Lawrence's Migration of the Negro, 1940-1

MoMA Museum To Honor Jacob Lawrence’s Great Migration Series Through Spoken Word Poetry

The MoMA is celebrating the work of Jacob Lawrence and his series of paintings One-Way Ticket: Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series and Other Visions of the Great Movement North. The Great Migration occurred between 1916 to 1970 and resulted in the migration of roughly six million African Americans from the rural south to the nation’s northern states.  The African American community in the south were drawn to the north because of industrial opportunities and an escape from the fierce segregation laws and lack of economic opportunities. A collection of paintings documenting this period was created in 1941 by Jacob Lawrence when he was only twenty-three. The MoMA is showcasing the work of ten poets who have been asked to write poems inspired by Jacob Lawrence’s work and this crucial time for the African American community in our nation’s history. The reading of these poems at the museum is set for May 1st 2015. Read below for information on the event’s featured poets.

Rita Dove
Dove was the first African American to be appointed Poet Laureate Consultant to the Library of Congress from 1993 to 1995. She made history again when she was the first African American to receive an appointment as special consultant in poetry” for the Library of Congress’s bicentennial year from 1999 to 2000. Some of her most notable publications include the novel Through The Ivory Gate (1992) and countless poetry collections such as most recently Sonata Mulattica (2009). (

Nikky Finney
For twenty years Finney served as the Guy Davenport Endowed Professor of English at the University of Kentucky. In 1997 her collection of poetry entitled Rice won the PEN American Open Book Award. She is currently the chair of the John H. Bennett, Jr.  in Southern Letters and Literature at the University of South Carolina.

Terrance Hayes
Hayed received his MFA from the University of Pittsburgh. His collection of poetry, Lighthead won a National Book Award in 2013. Other works include Wind in a Box (2006), Hip Logic (2002), and Muscular Music (1999).

Tyehimba Jess
Jess is best known for experimenting with slam and academic poetry. He received his MFA from New York University and published a collection of poetry entitled leadbelly in 2005.

Yusef Komunyakaa
Born in Bogalusa, Louisiana, Komunyakaa  was a correspondent in United States Army from 1969 to 1970. At the time he was also the managing editor of the Southern Cross, which earned him a Bronze Star during the Vietnam War. His most notable work was the publication of a collection of poems in 1984 entitled, Copacetic.

Patricia Spears Jones
Spears Jones is from Forest City, Arkansas and is known for “evoking the blues in my poetry” as she noted in a 2014 interview for Mosaic: Literary Arts of the Diaspora. Spears Jones has published multiple collections of poetry including Painkiller (2010), Femme du Monde (2006), and The Weather That Kills (1995). (

Natasha Trethewey
Trethewey was appointed United States Poet Laureate in 2012. She is also Poet Laureate of Mississippi. In 2006 she won the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for her collection of poetry entitled, Native Guard. She is currently the director of the Create Writing program at Emory University.

Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon
Van Clief-Stephanon is a professor of Creative Writing at Cornell University. Her novel Open Interval was a National Book Award finalist in 2009. Her collection Black Swan was the winner of the 2001 Cave Canem Poetry Prize.

Crystal Williams
Williams holds degrees from New York University and Cornell University.  She has completed four collections of poetry, her most recent, Detroit as Barn was a finalist for the National Poetry Series as well as Cleveland State Open Book Prize.

Kevin Young
Young attended Harvard University where he became a member of Dark Room Collective, a community of African American writers founded by Thomas Sayers Ellis and Sharan Strange ( His Collection of poetry, Most Way Home was chosen for the National Poetry Prize Series.