Illustrations, drawings, pictures, and paintings are often used in early childhood education. Because young learners are still developing their reading skills, artwork is a medium that is very powerful in telling stories to children. My students enjoy looking at pictures or illustrations alone, without written text, and then predicting the plot of a story or even making up their own stories to correspond with the art. Two artists that students will examine are Tom Feelings and Jacob Lawrence. Both artists have depicted in their work the blues of slavery.
Tom Feelings is the creator of The Middle Passage, a book of illustrations which center on the slave trade. Tom Feelings’ motive behind the work was to tell this part of our history(slavery) in a way that those chains of the past, those shackles that physically bound us together against our wills could, in the telling become spiritual links that willingly bind us together, now and in the future.
Jacob Lawrence has received many awards for his paintings and has been exhibited throughout the U.S. and in England. He has captured in vivid color aspects of slavery in panels which illustrate slaves moving through the Underground Railroad from South to North.
Students will observe illustrations and paintings from both Tom Feelings and Jacob Lawrence and reflect on their individual word banks to describe the mood of the selections. Students will also create a mural and other works that capture the mood of a slave plantation. Through the creation of artwork, students are bound to discover how color can reflect moods and feelings as much as words do. During this component of the unit, blues music should be played.