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The Florida Highwaymen

2020 Florida Folk Heritage Award Winners

Based out of Fort Pierce, Florida the Florida Highwaymen are the group of 26 individuals known for their fast painting styles of Florida landscapes.

In 1954, Alfred Hair began taking lessons to be taught by the local Fort Pierce landscape painter A.E. “Bean” Backus. Since it would have been difficult to have his paintings displayed in a gallery, Alfred Hair took this knowledge and went his own way instead. After teaching others the style, Hair and his group began painting scenes of Florida landscapes from memory out of his own home. Even Alfred’s wife Doretha was known for helping in the process along the way. Using materials like Upson board as their canvas and framing the final paintings with door trim, the artists chose to paint using fast painting styles and palette knives.

Before the paint even had a chance to dry, the painters took to the road to sell their paintings out of their cars along the highway and from door to door, usually for under $35. With this strategy, Hair's business allowed Black Americans an opportunity to have a job that paid much more than the jobs that were available to them in the Jim Crow south. Together, the group painted and sold an estimated 200,000 works between the 1950’s and the 1970’s.

With Hair’s sudden death in 1970, the Florida Highwaymen seemingly disbanded as a group. Even still, many of the members would continue to paint on their own. The painters went by fairly unknown by the public until the 1990’s, when Jim fitch gave them their name as “The Highwaymen”.

Today, paintings by the Florida Highwaymen can be seen by the public at places like the Museum of Florida History in Tallahassee, as well as the Highwaymen Trail in Fort Pierce. Between the new popularity of their paintings, and the recognition in the community, the Florida Highwaymen are remembered for their lasting impact.