A beautiful example of art transcending time is found in the story of “The Florida Highwaymen.” Historic Artist AJ Brown is a 2nd Generation Highwaymen Artist, of Fort Pierce, Florida. Honored and mentored by God Uncle Hall of Fame Johnny Daniels a 40-year veteran. The Original Highwaymen are a group of self-taught African American painters, who over 50 years ago, against all odds, became successful selling landscape paintings of Florida during the 1950’s, when Jim Crow laws prohibited most blacks from realizing their dreams. Shunned by white-owned galleries and museums, the artists traveled along highways throughout Florida selling ocean breezes, windy bent palms and dreamy sunsets, "while still wet,” for $25 from the trunks of their cars or by going door to door in white neighborhoods and businesses. Still on the road; Gratefully, today our art is highly valued selling for thousands of dollars. Born in Virginia, raised by a single mother and Seminole Indian Grandmother in southern Florida, from humble beginnings a family of migrant fruit and vegetable pickers is from Tallahassee, Florida. Life was hard for our nomadic family, we lived in camps and traveled from highway to highway. In 1957 family set roots in the Lincoln Park area of Fort Pierce, Florida. I attended more than 10 different schools and had 15 different home addresses; in 1969 included 4th grade at Means Court Elementary.
“We had no permanent place to call home.” “We were Highwaymen in every sense of the word.”
When school recessed, I worked summer jobs as stucco helper for uncle Alfred and picked oranges in the fields. “We all were searching for a way out.” "We were all caught in the same economic inequality." The Civil Rights Movement was growing in the deep south as it was throughout the country. In 1965 our family would once again be on the move, to Good-Bread Alley Miami. "I was among the first students to end segregation.” In 1970, early before daybreak, I woke to take three buses out of my Over-Town neighborhood and across town to desegregate, one white school in another town.” My life like the Highwaymen is clearly illustrated in my work, vividly colored images, Red Royal Poinciana’s and Purple Jacaranda trees along the southern bayous of Florida are trademarks. A significant part of America’s history, Highwaymen History Lives On! Our rightful place in the world of art was reaffirmed 12/25/2014, when the United States, First African American President, Barack, and First Lady Michelle Obama added two of my paintings to their White House personal collection.
A landmark achievement transcends time, art and history as they are passed down to their next generation and mine!