If you traveled Florida Route 1 in the 1960s, you may have encountered young African American artists selling beautifully painted Florida landscapes from the trunks of their cars along the side of the road. Jim Crowe segregation prevented the painters from entering galleries – so they sold their works at motels, businesses, and to tourists – for $15-$25 apiece. It is estimated that they created and sold more than 200,000 paintings by the end of the 20th century.
Many of the young painters were inspired and mentored by Fort Pierce’s world-renowned landscape artist Albert Earnest “Bean” Backus, creator of richly detailed depictions of “Old Florida” scenery. Encouragement from Backus, Lincoln Park Academy art teacher Zanobia Jefferson, and each other helped propel the young entrepreneurs to paint their way out of picking citrus and tomatoes, using wallboard as their canvas and crown molding for frames.
The loosely associated group of twenty-five men and one woman came to be known as The Highwaymen. Mostly from Fort Pierce, the artists were inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 2004.
We hope you will join us for our next Highwaymen Heritage Trail Art Show/Sale and Festival to celebrate the world-renowned Highwaymen artists and enjoy the rich cultural history of Fort Pierce, one of the oldest cities on Florida’s east coast. Visit About the Highwaymen Heritage Trail for information on the award-winning Highwaymen Heritage Trail.