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The Cover
March 11, 1998

Birth

JAMA. 1998;279(10):726. doi:10.1001/jama.279.10.726

If by some chance in some future millennium a historian of this or another planet should wish to know the story of the human race as it saw itself in the 20th century AD, he or she could do no better than to look at the works of the American painter Jacob Lawrence (1917- ) (JAMA covers February 7, 1996, and September 10, 1997). For more than 60 years he has been recording that century: his own experiences as well as the experiences of those around him. His is a trail of wordless narratives that, like the paintings of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, are accessible to all, regardless of language. They exist prior to language: beyond vocabulary, syntax, or grammar. Their syntax is built from the human experience itself: a universal pattern of hopes, aspirations, joys, and sorrows. Their grammar is the black experience in the United States, their alphabet the events that shaped that experience, their vocabulary the shapes and colors of daily life. It is a book that anyone can read.

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