Art Matters: Painter Jacob Lawrence’s ‘Forward Together’ 

The powerful print depicts Harriet Tubman, traveling at night and following the North Star, guiding a group of enslaved African Americans on their perilous journey to freedom on the Underground Railroad. 

A print by Jacob Lawrence depicts Harriet Tubman leading enslaved people to freedom.
“Forward Together” by Jacob Lawrence. (Image: Courtesy of Penn Carey Law School)
Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000)
“Forward Together”
Screen print
Location: Penn Carey Law, second floor lobby of Silverman Hall

Jacob Lawrence’s powerful, colorful paintings document the breadth and depth of the African American experience throughout American history. A product of the Harlem Renaissance and a renowned painter, Lawrence is one of the first nationally recognized African American artists. He began exploring printmaking in the 1960s, and now one of those prints makes its home at Penn Carey Law, thanks to a donation by alumnus Reggie Govan.

Following his service as the chief counsel of the Federal Aviation Administration during the Obama Administration, Govan was a senior lecturer in Legal Practice Skills during the 2019–20 academic year. He donated “Forward Together” to the Penn Carey Law last academic year to honor the 41 first-year students comprising his class, whose “grace and thirst for learning,” he says, “provided a firm foundation for an enriching and rewarding teaching experience.”

“The students’ palpable commitment to master a new discipline together with their many different personal, educational, work experiences and nascent career goals immeasurably enriched our consideration of the year’s research, writing, and client-counselling projects,” Govan says.

The piece is displayed in a busy area near five classrooms, seen by many students, faculty, and staff every day.

“This extraordinary piece captures a powerful and persistent theme in Jacob Lawrence’s work: the quest for freedom and justice,” says Sophia Z. Lee, dean and Bernard G. Segal Professor of Law. “It is an important reminder of law’s dual power to oppress and liberate, serving as both a caution and inspiration to the legal profession and to the generations of bright, passionate students who will pass it daily.”

Anyone interested in viewing the piece can contact to ask for admission to the building to see the work.