Little Known Black History Fact: Alfred Hair and the Highwaymen

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  • Alfred Hair a.k.a “Freddie” of Fort Pierce, Florida was a black artist and student of a well-known white art teacher named A.E. Backus. Hair was born pre-civil rights and used painting as a release from the segregated south.  His style of painting bright scenes of Florida, with no two paintings just alike, came to be known as the “Highwaymen” style of painting. It is a highly emotional, no lines or ‘rules of art’ on the canvas. The style was the pure essence of Hair’s ability to capture the natural scene. During the 1950’s there were no print machines to mass-produce copies of one print, so each one of Hair’s pieces were unique.  

    As a Highwayman, Hair sold his paintings out of cars, on the side of highways and door-to-door, sometimes before they were completely dry. Hair painted anywhere from 8 to 20 paintings in one day. He soon began earning anywhere from $250 to $500 per day in the 1960’s. With so many clients, he had to hire salesman for the demand, and some of the salesman became Highwaymen artists themselves.

    Hair’s paintings not only became a way for him to make a name for himself as an artist, but it was a thriving business that he constantly worked to improve. He found that by using less expensive materials like Upson board, similar to drywall, he could keep overhead costs down and profits rising. Instead of uniquely cut frames, Hair used crown molding.

    Tragically, Alfred Hair’s life ended suddenly in 1970. While visiting a drive-in with a friend, Hair was shot and killed by a bullet intended for another individual. He was only 29 years old.

    The legacy of the Highwaymen stood strong with 26 additional artists who are now, along with Hair, documented in the Florida Artists Hall of Fame.

    Following are the Florida Highwaymen in the Florida Artist Hall of Fame:

    Curtis Arnett
    Hezekiah Baker (Deceased)
    Al Black
    Ellis Buckner (Deceased)
    George Buckner (Deceased)
    Robert Butler
    Mary Ann Carroll
    Johnny Daniels (Deceased)
    Willie Daniels
    Rodney Demps
    James Gibson
    Alfred Hair (Deceased)
    Issac Knight
    Robert L Lewis, Jr
    John Maynor
    Roy McLendon
    Alphonso Moran (Deceased)
    Harold Newton (Deceased)
    Lemuel Newton
    Sam Newton
    Livingston Roberts (Deceased)
    Willie Reagan
    Carnell Smith
    Charles Walker
    Sylvester Wells
    Charles Wheeler
     

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