A beautiful example of art transcending time is found the story of the “The Florida Highwaymen”. Historic Artist A J Brown is a 2nd Gen Highwaymen of Ft Pierce, Florida. History handed down over years, mentored by Originals Johnny Lee “Hook” Daniels, instructed and history by James Gibson, accredited and painted with Willie Daniels and highway-ed with Al “Blood” Black. Bestowed the name 2nd Generation Highwaymen, endorsed by the legends themselves!
Legends of the road, the name Highwaymen was earned because of the way they sold their paintings. Door to door, business to business. Along side US Highway One and A1A. From the trunks of their cars came Florida! Lined side by side displayed their hand painted vivid scenes $25, $35 sold to locals and tourists. Crown molding as frames, Upson board as canvas, tree trunks as easels, garages & backyards as studios, makeshift materials was the only game they knew. Signatures scratched in with nails, colors created undeveloped southern bayous in oils that were still wet!
Who sold paintings still wet? The Highwaymen did!
About 60 year ago, a group of unknown untrained African Americans under the radar, documented Florida’s serene natural history.
The long hard road, shunned for the color of their skin, museums nor galleries would showcase the work of black artists during the Jim Crow Laws.
Now a part of America’s History! The African American entrepreneurs significantly impacted the world of art cultural, economically, geographically, socially and politically! Created in the hundreds of thousands, the brand and market sustained the test of time.
It all began with a vision, during an unlikely time of the Jim Crow Era. Encouragement and training of black art instructor Zanobia Jefferson, A. E. “Bean” Backus, a prominent white landscape painter and “Heart of the Highwaymen”
Labeled as painters, decades later earned the respect as artists. Twenty six, all men and one woman were officially recognized and inducted into Florida’s Artist Hall of Fame. America’s story and Highwaymen history is known internationally, preserved through a host of national museums, NMAAHC in Washington, DC and United States Presidents.
But most of all, the “2nd Generation Movement” is the most powerful, significant extension of what the “Original Movement” have started.
Established in 1973 with family Roy McLendon and friend Norman Wright may initially have began during the Civil Rights Era of the late 1960’s according to elder artists.
Still, the 2nd Gen traditions of their very conditions holds true; on the road, the art is taken to the people. Makeshift assembly line easels, backyard studio’s, from the trunks of the cars comes wet Florida on boards, may occasionally be found road-side around Florida.
May 2009, the informal group unified to form the 1st historic 501(c)3 organization with the goal of opening a Highwaymen museum. The Original First Lady Mary-Ann Carroll was president. A J Brown 2nd Gen was officially appointed Highwaymen Secretary and member of the By-Laws Committee. Voted to preserve Florida’s Highwaymen Art history, the movement included 2nd Gen blood and non-blood, friends and family, a rich tradition which dates the late 1950’s; inspires generations to come and Yes, still worth it!