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Activity: Rhythms of Everyday Life

Lois Mailou Jones, The Green Door, 1981

Lois Mailou Jones, The Green Door, 1981, watercolor over graphite on wove paper, Corcoran Collection (Museum Purchase, William A. Clark Fund), 2015.19.2951

Observation and Discussion

  1. What stands out to you in this painting? Ask students to look at the image individually and identify moments of work, rest, and play. Each student should select one or two individuals in the painting and write a few sentences about what they might be doing, thinking, or feeling.
  2. Come together as a class and discuss what you noticed. Where do you imagine the location to be? In what ways is this community similar to and different from your own? Consider the people and activities depicted as well as the physical space.
  3. Read a brief chapter on Lois Mailou Jones’s time in Haiti. Why do you think she chose to paint this scene? What aspects of the community does she capture?


Research daily life in Haiti and examine the social, political, and economic conditions around the time Jones painted The Green Door (1981). Possible sources to explore:

BlackPast article on President Jean-Claude Duvalier
1981 Washington Post article, “Haiti’s Eclectic Beat”
• Radio Haiti article and interview with founder (minutes 26–45)
UPenn Haiti Timeline
BlackPast article on Haïtien immigration to the US

Use suggested resources to discover a fuller picture of the community. With each source, ask students to consider who the intended audience might be and who the author/creator is, including what specific perspectives or biases they might have. Have students write a brief essay describing what features of Haitian life are visible in Jones’s painting and what things might be left out.

As a class, spend some time researching other communities of the African Diaspora around the world. Discuss how they formed, how they’ve changed over time, and who makes up those communities.


  • As a creative extension, ask students either to create a work of art or to write a one-page description of a specific location in their own community that captures some of the people, activities, and unique elements of this place.
  • As you work, listen to music from Haiti: “Mini Jazz,” Spotify Sound of Haitian Dance, or explore some of Songline’s essential Haitian Albums.


BlackPast: Global Perspectives
National Museum of African American History and Culture: From Harlem to Haiti
AP: Photo essay of Haiti today