FORT PIERCE, Fla. — Selling landscapes along the roadside in the 1960s and 1970s, a group of African-American artists based around Fort Pierce became known as the “Highwaymen.”
Now, there’s a push to preserve their legacy on and off the road.
At the A.E Backus Gallery in Fort Pierce, the works on the wall are easy to identify.
The poinciana trees, the backcountry, the surf, all hallmarks of a Highwayman painting.
Doretha Hair Truesdell remembers the date nights at the ocean with husband Alfred Hair.
“The ocean was it for him, and he loved to paint it,” said Truesdell.
Under the tutelage of Lincoln Park Academy art teacher Zenobia Johnson, and later famed artist “Beanie” Backus, Hair became one of the best known “Highwaymen” artists, this group of traveling art salesmen.
“Just put it in the backseat of the car and take off,” remembered Truesdell.
Now a new specialty license plate has been created in honor of the Highwaymen.
“So happy, so proud that it was coming from our community,” said Truesdell.
Former State Representative Delores Hogan Johnson oversaw the bills passage in the legislature allowing for the new plate.
““I would see them, selling the paintings. These were hometown heroes,” said Hogan Johnson.
Legislative approval was just step one. The second step is to get 3,000 pre-sale vouchers purchased by October of 2022 so the state will make the plate.
Fees from the specialty plate would go toward local school art programs, and the creation of a Highwaymen Museum and African-American Cultural Center on Avenue D in Fort Pierce.
“We sold the art, now we want to hold on to the art, that’s the difference,” laughed Truesdell.
Not every county tax collector has a link up yet to get a presale voucher, so here is the link.