The North Carolina Roots of Artist Ernie Barnes

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This exhibition will showcase many unpublished Ernie Barnes original paintings, as well as artifacts from his life. Barnes was born and raised in Durham, North Carolina. After five seasons as a professional football player, he retired at age 27 to pursue art.

Known for his unique style of elongation, energy, and movement, Barnes is the first professional American athlete to become a noted painter!


Ernie Barnes: An American Story



Born and raised in Durham, North Carolina during segregation, Ernie Barnes captured the lively spirit of his community in his artwork. Barnes played in the NFL for five seasons, but art was his true calling. His works include The Sugar Shack, the iconic painting featured in the Good Times television series and on the cover of a Marvin Gaye album. The influences of his life and schooling at Hillside High School and North Carolina Central University can be seen in his distinctive creative work. Learn more about artist Ernie Barnes in the North Carolina Museum of History’s video series “A Storied Past: North Carolina’s African American History. Experience the exhibit, “The North Carolina Roots of Artist Ernie Barnes,” at the North Carolina Museum of History, open now through March 3, 2019. Producer: Melody Hunter-Pillion. NC State University Public History Music: Kevin MacLeod