Mary Ann Carroll
First Lady of the Highwaymen
"A tale of triumph, of personal survival, of discipline, and finally, of faith."--Linda Hudson, mayor, Fort Pierce, Florida
"An inspiring story of how one African-American woman artist not only survived a man's world but also did it during the long storm of a racist climate."--Ginger Smith Baldwin, senior legislative assistant, Florida Senate
"A great read of an inspiring story about a woman of faith, character and drive. Mr. Monroe captures the essence of the Highwaymen's art, Mary Ann Carroll's life, and the entrepreneurial spirit that helped Carroll succeed in a racially charged environment."--Tom Wagor, president, Marco Island Historical Society
"So many lives of artists are made possible, or at least made easier, by the support of someone else making the dinner and tending to the children while the singular experience of Mary Ann Carroll, Highwaywoman, related in this book reveals an artist overcoming the institutional challenges of race and gender while tending to the daily chores."--Jean Ellen Wilson, author of Legendary Locals of Fort Pierce
In the years since the art world discovered them, much has been made of the Highwaymen--the loosely knit band of African American painters whose edenic Florida landscapes, created with inexpensive materials and sold out of their cars, "shaped the state's popular image as much as oranges and alligators" (New York Times). But lost in the legends surrounding the group is the mesmerizing story of Mary Ann Carroll, the only female "Highwayman."
In 1957, sixteen-year-old Carroll met Harold Newton, later dubbed the original Highwayman. He was painting a landscape along the side of the road. There were red flames on his car. Yet what shocked the young African American girl most of all was discovering a black man who didn't work in the orange groves, who made a living off of his paintings. It wasn't long before she was creating and selling her own landscapes, and the other Highwaymen, taking note of her startling use of color, welcomed her into the fold.
Carroll sold her first painting at eighteen--remarkable for any young artist, unheard of for a black woman in the South. Like her Highwaymen brethren, she travelled across the state, selling her art at hotels, offices, and restaurants where she was not allowed to drink, eat, or even sit. If the Highwaymen faced discrimination at every door they knocked on, then the challenges--and dangers--were magnified for Carroll. She took pride in always having her pristine Buick gassed and ready to go and her small handgun cleaned and ready to use.
After years of virtual obscurity, Carroll was invited to the First Lady's Luncheon in 2011, where she presented a painting of her iconic poinciana to Michelle Obama. Today, she is pastor of the Foundation Revival Center in Fort Pierce, is an accomplished artist and musician, and still paints and exhibits her work widely.
Mary Ann Carroll is the never-before-told story of a black female artist's hard-fought journey to provide for her family while also making a name for herself in a man's world.
Gary Monroe, professor of fine arts and photography at Daytona State College, is the author of numerous books, including The Highwaymen: Florida's African-American Landscape Painters, The Highwaymen Murals: Al Black's Concrete Dreams, and Harold Newton: The Original Highwayman.
Carroll’s story is fascinating, but art lovers will appreciate the more than 100 prints of Carroll’s vibrant paintings in the book.
In Monroe’s new book, you get a glimpse of what life was like in Fort Pierce in the 1950s and ‘60s, when whites and blacks were literally segregated by a canal… [An] excellent job in honoring the life and work of Mary Ann Carroll… [and] a must to add to any art library, and of course, for anyone who was lucky enough to have acquired Highwaymen painting.
--Independent Book Review
A compelling summary of Carroll’s life and contributions....Readers of Florida history, the women’s movement, and art history will find this book invaluable.
Monroe’s thoughtful, well-documented book is notable for the ways in which it addresses the racial struggle from which Carroll’s and her confederates’ art emerged.
Mary Ann Carroll’s personal struggle, in black and white, is a tribute to her tenacity, her vision and her faith in God. Her history reminds the reader of the state’s checkered racial history and what stubbornly survives of that era.
Other Gary Monroe BooksE. G. Barnhill: Florida Photographer, Adventurer, Entrepreneur
Harold Newton: The Original Highwayman
Postcards from The Highwaymen
Florida's American Heritage River: Images from the St. Johns Region
Alfred Hair: Heart of the Highwaymen
The Highwaymen: Florida's African-American Landscape Painters
Silver Springs: The Underwater Photography of Bruce Mozert
Extraordinary Interpretations: Florida's Self-Taught Artists
The Last Resort: Jewish South Beach, 1977–1986
Cassadaga: The South's Oldest Spiritualist Community