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Travel Tip: Art and Archaeology in United States
Rising Above Jim Crow: The Paintings of Johnnie Lee Gray

Rising Above Jim Crow: The Paintings of Johnnie Lee Gray
NEW YORK  •  Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture  •  Ongoing
The exhibition encompasses some 35 paintings by Johnnie Lee Gray (1941 - 2000), as well as a selection of archival photographs and videotaped interviews that put the artwork into historical and social context.

Johnnie Lee Gray: Backbone of the South
Acrylic on plywood 20" x 23 1/2"
From the collection of Mrs. Shirley Sims Gray

Raised in a sharecropper family, Johnnie Lee Gray (1941 - 2000) attended the segregated black high school for Spartanburg County, South Carolina, then served in the Army for seven years, including a tour of duty in Vietnam. Although he worked in the textile mills after returning home and later became a carpenter, he always viewed himself as an artist, having drawn since childhood. In 1978, he met and married Shirley Sims and began to paint for the first time. From then until his death in 2000 at age 58, he completed approximately 150 paintings.

Most of Gray's paintings evoke his experiences as an African-American living in the Jim Crow South and into the first decades of desegregation. He painted scenes of fieldwork (recalled from childhood, when he served as a water boy during harvests), church life, night life, civil rights demonstrations, and the changing city. Among the themes of the exhibition are the strength of family; the sense of community in both rural and urban settings; the power of the African-American church; and the process of migration, both physical and spiritual, as African-Americans searched for a better way of life.

After the exhibition closes at the Schomburg Center on 3 January 2003, Rising Above Jim Crow will travel to venues in Chicago (January - April 2003), Atlanta (May - August 2003), and Los Angeles (September - December 2003).

Jim Crow History Web Site

Contact: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
515 Malcolm X Boulevard
New York, NY
Tel: (1) 212 491 22 00

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