History Facts: May 2009, female AJ Brown a 2nd Generation Highwaymen Artist, was officially appointed in office by the Original Highwaymen and became the first Highwaymen Secretary. The charitable service as a By-Laws Committee member was another rewarding office of honor. "Brown was reaffirmed into the Highwaymen group," her vital contributions to the organization are a part of the Highwaymen history. Both generations unified as one group and formed the first official historic 501(c)3 organization. The Original Highwayman, female Mary Ann Carroll was elected as the first President. Florida Highwaymen Artists and History Center Incorporated was the name given by James Gibson. The goal was to open the first Highwaymen museum. As a group, in November 2009, the Original Highwaymen voted and agreed to preserve Florida’s historic art tradition. The organization included the 2nd Generation movement, which included blood, and non-blood, friends and family. A tradition that dates the 1950s and '60s is predominantly men. The Highwaywomen remains a rare commodity today.
AJ Brown was endorsed by four Legendary Hall of Fame Original Florida Highwaymen. In 2005, James Gibson a 50-year veteran, was Brown's first affirmation as a Highwaymen when he taught her to paint. In 2007, Johnny Lee Daniels, a 40-year veteran mentored Brown, followed by Willie Daniels and Al Black. Female AJ Brown is the only 2nd Generation Highwaymen member of the group connected by several legends. Johnny Daniels made Brown his partner in his second Highwaymen Art Gallery, located at 1725 Okeechobee Road in Fort Pierce, until he passed. Johnny Daniels died May 26, 2009, his death was difficult to understand and left many asking what went wrong, doing his routine surgery? As God family to Johnny, Brown was authorized to construct Johnny's grave-site monument in Fort Pierce, Florida.
J Daniels proudly supported her career as a 2nd Generation Highwaymen, and would always say "just keep on painting!" And so she did. Brown learned by watching Johnny and practiced her nature gift from God. Original Highwaymen James Gibson was the first to teach AJ Brown to paint the Red Royal Poinciana trees, and moon-lite night scenes for two years before his busy schedule suggested she paint with Johnny Daniels. Although Brown did not realize it at the time, Gibson's legacy was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Brown's backyard painting with Original Highwaymen Al "Blood" Black, Willie Daniels, and sometimes Carnell "Pete" Smith, was an honor. She studied subjects by A. E. Backus, Hair, Newton and the Daniels brothers. From the age of nine, ten, and eleven, AJ Brown's granddaughter Salsa, was mentored as a 4th generation heritage by Willie Daniels, and AJ Brown. Salsa's archived collection dates back to 2009. Highwayman Al Black was the top salesman for the group, which made learning the business from the man himself offered Brown a humbling experience. Al Black and AJ Brown spent nearly three years painting together in Al's famous backyard. Al and Brown took to the highways and on numerous occasions, Al introduced Brown as a 2nd Generation Highwayman, an experience Brown would not soon forget! They traveled the highways of Florida and sold their art along the side of the road. Door to door, and business to business, from the trunk of his car, it was just like the old times Al taught her about!
During the 1960s, 70s, and 80s doodling, coloring, and painting through-out childhood offered Brown a pleasant gratification.
A more serious interest wasn't particularly gained until the early 1990s.
As a young lady, Brown's first mural was on her bedroom wall in Pembroke Pines, Florida, a scene she called Eleuthera, Bahamas.
Additional paintings were on tables and chairs. AJ Brown was born in Virginia, and raised in Miami's Historic Over-Town. Fort Pierce, Florida was Brown's second home since her childhood. Brown's roots began in a place the family called home, the most southern United States of Florida, is the northern city of Tallahassee. Brown was raised by a single mother and her grandmother; both of the women were multi-talented. Brown's grandmother, Ida Mae Francis Black was herself an artist, she had the gift from God. A multiracial heritage of white, black, and Native American Seminole Indian, life difficult during the early 1900's.
Brown's great great grandmother D-Eye, was a full-blooded Seminole, who helped raised Brown's grandmother, and her children. As the family history is shared,
D-Eye would move her long jet black hair to the side, just to keep from sitting on it. A known commonality among the Native Americans, and one of grandmother's many traits.
Brown's grandmother married German Jones. Brown's grandfather was a young man when one day, while on his way to work, he suddenly fell dead with a heart attack. That was grandmother's first heartbreak, she knew there would never be another quite like him. The traits of the Brown's family white blood-line gene was strong, her grandmother's long black hair and white skin dominated her appearance as white. As a child, growing-up with her grandmother, the color of her skin never dawned on Brown, and Brown never realized she was anything other than her grandmother, whom she loved dearly.
Brown's grandmother was born in Tallahassee in 1914. During the 1940s, she raised six mixed children. One day Brown's grandmother and her siblings were forced to leave their home, by the KKK. The proud loving mother was threatened and for the protection of her multiracial family, she relocated. Her three daughters was mixed with Indian and black, one daughter dominated the black gene. There were two sons, one white son, and one black son. Her kids took on her heritage and each of her traits. During the 1930s and '40s mixing of the races placed grandmother in seroious violation of the Jim Crow Law's. There were many hard times raising a family of six without a husband. The era of systematic racism made life for grandmother, and her children, not only difficult but dangerous.
In 1957, Grandmother and her six children settled in Fort Pierce, Florida; but not before traveling the Eastern Seaboards of the Atlantic Coast as agricultural migrant laborers. As kids in Miami, Brown's grandmother, asked her grandchildren to paint her statues of Mother Mary, and two soldiers, she said they represented her two sons. It was the beginning of other projects grandmother would ask her grandchildren to paint. Her only white son was left living in Rochester NY, with a white family, but after several address relocations, he was never to be seen again. Her only black son, Spec 4 Paul Jones was killed in Vietnam action three weeks before he was to return home, he never saw his 21st birthday.
Brown spent childhood summer vacations in Fort Pierce Florida, 2513 Avenue J, with her aunt, and uncle. A long-time respected member of the community, uncle Alfred owned a stucco business. During the ’60s, Brown attended fourth grade at Means Court Elementary, while living with a second aunt, and uncle at 516 N. 17th Street. For Brown, the country-side living of small town Fort Pierce, was a very different experience than growing up in the big-city life of Miami Florida.
Although the Highwaymen did not receive fame until the 1990s, during the ’60s, Brown's uncle supported the young black artists by purchasing large collections of their art. To name a few, Harold Newton on black velvet, Alfred Hair, Livingston Roberts, and Mary-Ann Carroll who traded her art work for uncle's stucco business services on her house. AJ Brown was raised with Highwaymen art, uncle Alfred offered her first childhood introduction, during summer vacations in Fort Pierce.
A destiny that seemed to be all in God’s plan, led to a life-changing career for Brown. On long hot summer days, Brown was drawn to the pink sunrises, and vivid sunsets. With Brown's wild imagination, she imagined herself swimming, boating, and fishing with family, and friends in the oil painted scenes that hung on the walls of her uncle's house. Scenes of a disappearing Florida told colorful stories of countryside living, growing up in the deep south on the Atlantic Coastal Shorelines of Fort Pierce, Florida
Within the Brown's family history, there are empty spaces of long loss bloodline relatives, Known members exist or existed but lost connections. There are a host of dynamics, and reasons why many were never connected, and reconnected. The family names are Black, Williams, Jones, and a few others not mentioned here. It is a struggle to discover the family roots but crucial to complete their family tree.
It was years later when Brown's grandmother stopped traveling the highways of Florida. Brown's grandmother and part of her family settled in Fort Pierce, Florida. Later, grandmother and a few siblings moved deeper south, and settled in Over-town Miami, and several surrounding areas.
AJ Brown is a member of a Gold Star family and she is a Blue Star mother of two, who fought and served Iraq, and Korea. Brown is rooted in a long-line of soldiers, and over decades their family has served the United States Army, Air Force, and Marines. Brown honors those who has loss their lives, and the brave heart of a hero who is remembered!