Red Earth – Georgia, 1947
Egg tempera on hardboard
20 x 24 inches
Signed and dated lower right
In 1941, Jacob Lawrence completed the The Migration of the Negro, a series that launched him onto the national stage. As a follow up to this, Fortune magazine commissioned the artist to execute several works depicting African Americans in the southern Black Belt. Red Earth – Georgia is one of ten paintings Lawrence completed for Fortune magazine in 1947.
The painting captures the end of a long and labored workday for Georgia sharecroppers. The abstracted, cubist handling of the red earth in the lower register of the painting nearly overshadows the activity above. Lawrence’s vivid imagery and straightforward caption for Red Earth – Georgia alludes to his nuanced view of sharecropping, “Within the black belt can be found most of the Negro wealth in the United States. There are palatial homes, palatial funeral parlors, rich insurance companies and a few banks–but the great mass of people are poor.” While sharecroppers depended on the rich, fertile soil, they were limited by the nature of their work and were often stuck in a cycle of poverty.