The Rotunda as seen from the east colonnade

The American Struggle Exhibition by Jacob Lawrence: Behind the Scenes


Online, Live Captioning



Traveling the country this past year, the exhibition Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle has made headlines for the revelations of the paintings themselves as well as the exciting discovery of two lost panels from the series (UVA Today article here). Throughout a career spanning six decades, Jacob Lawrence maintained an unwavering focus on the human condition and created work that gave pointed and consistent expression to the Black experience in America.

Join Lifetime Learning and UVA’s Fralin Museum of Art for a behind-the-scenes look at this important series in American art, the collaborative process of making an exhibition, and the early work carried out at UVA and The Fralin, which led to the development of this exhibit.

Matthew McLendon, J. Sanford Miller Family Director of The Fralin Museum, will moderate the discussion with panelists Elizabeth Hutton Turner, UVA professor of art history and co-curator of the blockbuster exhibition; Harvey Ross, collector; and Barbara Earl Thomas, artist, educator, student, and friend of Jacob Lawrence.

Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle is on view at its final venue, The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., until September 19th.


Matthew McLendon

J. Sanford Miller Family Director, The Fralin Museum of Art, University of Virginia

Matthew McLendon, PhD, is an art historian and curator of modern and contemporary art. He is widely recognized for his cross-disciplinary curatorial practice, an emphasis on community engagement and education, and activating marginalized voices in the museum setting. Since coming to The Fralin in 2017, McLendon has focused on activating the museum within the University community and beyond. Under his leadership, a broad communications strategy has been implemented, earning extensive coverage in national and regional publications.

Elizabeth Hutton Turner

University Professor, Art History, McIntire Department of Art, University of Virginia

Elizabeth Hutton Turner is a University professor of art history in the McIntire Department of Art at the University of Virginia. Professor Hutton Turner is a Jacob Lawrence scholar who co-curated the exhibition Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle and served as editor and contributor of a book of the same name. During her tenure at UVA, Hutton Turner served as the vice provost of the arts and as interim director for the University of Virginia Art Museum from 2006 – 2011.

Harvey Ross

Art Collector

Harvey Ross is a renowned collector of the art of Jacob Lawrence. Ross and his late wife Harvey-Ann own 15 of the 23 panels on view in the Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle exhibit. He worked on Wall Street for 50 years.

Barbara Earl Thomas

Writer and Visual Artist

Barbara Earl Thomas is a Seattle-based award-winning writer and visual artist with a career that spans more than 30 years. Her far-ranging exhibits include The Savannah Contemporary Art Museum and the Seattle and Tacoma Art Museums with solo exhibits at the Meadows Museum in Shreveport, LA and the Evansville Museum of Art and Technology in Indiana. Her works, widely collected, are included in the Portland, Seattle, and Tacoma Art Museums and private and corporate collections such as Microsoft, 21c Museum Hotel (Louisville, KY), and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Program Host

UVA Lifetime Learning partners with The Fralin Museum of Art to present this event.