"Florida Highwaymen" is a name coined in 1995 for a group of African-American artists from the Ft.
Pierce, Florida area. These artists primarily sold their art by setting up temporarily on roadsides or by
visiting businesses and professional offices. Racial barriers existing in Florida during the 50's and later
prohibited the artists from displaying their works in traditional galleries.
Their story began in 1954 when Harold Newton met A.E. "Beanie" Backus, an accomplished white artist
from Ft. Pierce. Backus encouraged Newton to begin painting Florida landscapes rather than the
religious scenes he had been painting. Newton was already a talented artist and soon found success
selling his landscape paintings door-to-door and along roadsides. His success captured the attention of
a young, talented art student named Alfred Hair. With the recommendation of his high school art teacher,
Hair began taking formal lessons from Backus in 1955. Hair soon developed a method of quickly
painting Florida scenes on inexpensive wallboard manufactured by the Upson Company. Backus had
sometimes painted on "Upson board" earlier in his career. Hair organized a group of friends to produce
paintings and they adopted Newton's selling techniques. Newton had little association with the group
and generally painted and sold his art on his own or with his brothers, Sam and Lem.
The paintings they produced depict the raw splendor of unspoiled Florida. Breezy seascapes and
colorful inland marshes - wading birds and towering cumulus clouds - swaying palm trees and stately
pines - all are common ingredients of a Highwaymen painting.
During the 1960's and 70's, business boomed for the Highwaymen. They produced and sold many
thousands of paintings during this period. In the 1980's the popularity of their art declined. With the
death of Harold Newton in 1994, public attention returned to their works due to several media articles.
Today, the remaining Highwaymen are experiencing a tremendous resurgence in their popularity. Their
paintings sell from several hundred to tens of thousands of dollars - a far cry from the $50 or less they
brought the artists in the 70's. Works by the deceased members of the group often command the
highest prices. This is especially true of Harold Newton's works, partly because of his status as the
original Highwaymen artist and also because he is generally recognized as the most talented artist of
Below is a list of the Highwaymen artists inducted by the State of Florida into the Florida Artists Hall of
Fame. Deceased artists are denoted by an asterisk.
Mary Ann Carroll
Charles "Chico" Wheeler
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