Painter discovers, depicts other side of Slavery
By Earlesha Butler
August 2, 2002
When one of John W. Jones' graphic design customers asked him to enlarge
a Confederate dollar bill six years ago, his work changed society's view of
slavery in a powerful way.
While making the enlargement, Jones noticed a small picture of slaves
picking cotton from their master's field on the bill.
Jones was amazed at the images. He
later used the Internet to find 120 different Confederate bills - all with
slaves depicted on them.
Jones, who has been painting since 6, began to paint the images of the
slaves on canvas. Such images
include a painting called "Moneta, Woman Goddess of Might." The
painting features a black woman sitting in a field, wrapped in a rich purple
sheet, holding cotton in her left hand and a bag of gold coins under her right
"My goal was to give the slaves a voice that they didn't have,"
said Jones, 52, a former graphic designer, who lives in South Carolina.
Jones' paintings have been featured in more than 216 media outlets,
including The New York Times, USA Today, Time and CNN, according to his Web
Jones is selling his book, "Confederate Currency: The Color of Money,"
at Booth 148 at the NABJ convention. He also exhibits his work at the Black
Holocaust Museum in Milwaukee.
People learn from his art work. Ninety-seven
percent of the people he talks to never realized that slaves were pictured on
American money, he said. Although inhumanity and brutality, Jones works to show
in his art that slaves had happy times. One
smiling emphatically while hauling a bale of cotton.
Another shows a man carrying hay, smiling over his right shoulder at his
dog. Both images depict the dignity
of the men's work, he said.
Jones' paintings form a lasting value in the black community, said Joahne
Penney, a business reporter in Chicago. There
is nothing more historically valuable than seeing slaves on Confederate
currency, Penney said. "The
pictures speak volumes," she said.
Chuma Nwokike, Jones' assistant, said the paintings are more than just
artwork; they are a part of black
history. " History informs art, which in turn artfully reveals history in a
compelling experience of discovery," he said.
In addition to enlightening the black community, Jones' paintings also
inform the white community. Because
his works display powerful images, they attract blacks and whites alike, Jones
His paintings, he said, give every generation of blacks an opportunity to
learn their history. "Anybody who doesn't know about their past is bound to