Depictions of Slavery in Confederate and Southern States
Quotes from Critiques
“Artist John W. Jones doesn't see himself as a teacher. Yet through his thought-provoking paintings of Confederate money, he teaches an important lesson in history.”Shannon Pease, The Miami Herald
"Jones is part of the leading edge of African American artists who are re-engaging the past in a way that is political but has never before been seen. While Jones' paintings demonstrate some nostalgia for the pastoral life of the old South, he is also critiquing the deceptive romanticism of the engravers."
Juliette Harris, editor
“…. A stunning exhibition. The exhibits literally dazzle the eye. Jones magnifies this picture of prosperity and good will with his strong representations of the delicate engraved scenes on antique currency, and reveals clearly the deception behind the pretty pictures.”
ANNE PRICE, arts critic,
In "Confederate Currency: The Color of Money"…. John W. Jones took the romanticized slave-labor scenes from Confederate currency and reproduced them in oil paintings paired with the bills. The effect is to punctuate the exploitation of blacks for profit. One scene depicts a sun-lit goddess of good fortune in repose, counting her gold as slaves toil in the fields behind her.
"If pictures are worth a thousand words, then Mr.
Jones' paintings can each
"Today, the little boy (Jones) who once drew in the dirt has become known for bringing to the nation's attention the fact that the Confederacy promoted the money-making virtues of slavery by engraving on its currency images of slaves at work."
"We did this exhibit because of what John showed us about the South. We hear a lot these days about how the Confederacy was really about states' rights and not slavery. But the currency itself tells the truth. It shows how they saw us, and how they wanted to keep seeing us."
W. Marvin Dulaney, director
"Jones depicts the slaves in bright clothing. He lavishes attention on the sky, sometimes filling it with scudding gray clouds, other times making it the violet of evening or yellow-hot midday. ... He's taken tiny images, where the slaves' faces can barely be seen, and brought them and the land around them to life."
For the most part, Jones tried to render the images as they appear. But in many cases, the figures are so small and indistinct that he had them blown up 400 and 500 percent at Kinko's and still had to use his imagination to fill in the details. He had to dress them, color them, give them faces (which explains why many of his slaves resemble friends and relatives).
“The exhibition becomes even more timely as one reads
that much of the Confederate currency printed prior to the Civil War was printed
not in the South but in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia.
Derrick Z. Jackson,
“If ever there is doubt about the central role slaves played in the South, that is to say, America, one needs look no further than its dollar bills.”
"Hardly a day goes by when the question of the Confederacy does not come up, that its legacy does not impact some dimension of everyday life and public policy. The Civil War was fought over issues people felt strongly about, issues about states' rights, the economy, slavery and African-American participation in American life.”
John Coski, historian