The paintings featured here are from the private collections of A. Everette James and Nancy Farmer and are frequently on view at the University of North Carolina and other locations throughout the Southeast,
From the 1840s through World War II, paintings by artists working in the South for the most part mirrored images fashioned throughout America. These paintings were different from those created in other parts of the country, however, in that they reflected the southern sense of place and the intimacy of black and white relationships in the region.
From the mid-nineteenth century through Reconstruction, southern paintings by white artists showed African Americans as largely dehumanized caricatures, black stereotypes rather than distinct individuals. Skin color appeared coal black; lips were thick and red, supported by protruding, overly large teeth. The contrived and exaggerated physical features, poor quality of clothing, and subservient activities of the African American subjects clearly cast them as outside or beneath the dominant, white social order.
Sambo, Top Hat, Zip Coon, and other stock figures, often from the minstrel tradition and imposed upon African Americans by whites, were popular subjects for white artists working in the South during this time period. These restrictive, demeaning stereotypes relegated African Americans to inferior roles and served to justify white denial of their humanity.
In the early years following the Civil War, changes in …