Art: Strike Fast

In the back of the room sat a quiet young Negro, listening while the others talked. It was during the depression, and almost every day Harlem's WPA Art Center was crammed with artists and writers. "It was my education," says Jacob Lawrence. "I met people like Saroyan before he got famous. They all used to talk about what was going on in the world. Not only about art, but everything."

Young Jacob Lawrence was shy, but he felt at home; he had long ago decided to become a painter. His mother had encouraged him when he was still a kid: "It kept...

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