Lawrence was born in Atlantic City, NJ and was an American painter. He was best known for his Migration Series (1941). The series was exhibited at Edith Halpert’s Downtown Gallery in 1942, making Lawrence the first African-American to join the gallery. Lawrence was drafted into the US Coast Guard during WWII where he created 48 paintings that were all lost. After the war, he went on to paint the War Series.
Lawrence spent 11-months (1949) at Hillside Hospital in Queens after suffering from depression. Upon his release Lawrence focused his attention on theater until 1971 when he went back to teaching. He accepted a position at the University of Washington in Seattle, until he retired in 1986. He continued painting and did pieces for charity, non-profit events and painted several murals-including one for Howard University. Lawrence died June 9, 2000.