The Color of Money: Scenes of Slavery Art Inspired by Old Confederate Money

Quite a few years ago, a collector brought an old Confederate banknote and asked John W. Jones to enlarge it. John, a south Carolina-born artist and commercial illustrator, was stunned to find that quite a lot of Southern currency depicted scenes of slave labors:

Confederate Currency: The Color of Money, is a journey that started six years ago while working as a graphic artist at a blueprint company in Charleston. After enlarging a Confederate bank note for a customer, I found myself looking at a picture of slaves picking cotton. Intrigued and excited, I started researching and documenting the use of slaves on Confederate and Southern states money. I was astonished by the widespread use of slaves on these currencies, and even more shocked by the absence of this information in any history books. The engravings on the bills are so small, that unless you were looking for them, you would miss them.

I decided to bring these engravings to light, as an addition to my series of paintings of the African American experience. I present the engravings as originally portrayed on the currencies without revision. I have used my colorful acrylics on canvas to bring the paintings back to life, and to extract from the dehumanizing engravings, the essential humanity of their subject matter.

John went on to create a series of paintings titled The Color of Money, where he turned the images of slavery on old Confederate money into art.

This one above, titled "Slave Boy," was based on an Alabama $50 note issued by the Central Bank of Alabama and a North Carolina $5 note issued by the now defunct Bank of Wadesborough.

Color of Money official website | Online exhibit at Gallery Chuma - Thanks Mikolka!


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Americans, whether white or black, need to get over the whole slavery issue. All great nations and empires were built on slaves - the Roman empire, Byzantine Empire, Ottoman empire, the British Isles, Nordic countries, Japan, Canada, the Aztec Empire, etc. The list can go on forever really. That's just the way it was. And another fact: slavery was not always based on race but on religion and status as well. Christians have enslaved non-Christians, Christians have been enslaved, Muslims have had slaves, etc. Instead of being so sensitive about it and offended by it, accept it as part of history and be happy and thankful it is no longer a continued practice in the U.S. Slavery was abolished in 1865 in the U.S.; it's time to move on. No African-American that exists today was ever a slave, and there is no need to apologize now for something in the past that was acceptable and necessary. And before assuming ALL slaves were discontent and abused, get the facts. That's definitely not true; although, I will agree that being the slave of the nicest master doesn't compare to being free!

And, no, I am not white nor am I black, but I am American.
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This is some of the most beautiful and original art I've seen in a long time. Snapshots of the 1850s. Depictions of life in the Olde South. History is history. Accept it instead of trying to revise it to suit your politically correct 21st century viewpoints. Your BS of today will be looked upon as bunk by future "free thinkers".
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sorry, but this is crap becuase this is the worst thing that I have ever seen in my whole life. if your going to make a picture from the time where slavery was in tune, then make it a little more realistic so there are no smiles on the sloves faces. it was the worst thing of you were a slave. bet you never thought about that did you when you painted this stupid crappy art. how selfish and what a fool you are. that's all i have to say otherwise i'll start swearing at you... see you later bitch
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