Summary: In late 2009, my cousin James Stone contacted me about a non-fiction book he was almost done writing, which gave the untold story of the only lynching to happen in 19th-century New Jersey (my cousin and I both grew up in New Jersey). Samuel “Mingo Jack” Johnson was accused of raping a white girl and, while being held at a jail lockup, was lynched by an angry mob. Since his death in 1886, it has since become common belief that Mingo was falsely accused.
My cousin wanted to know if I would do a painting that could be used as the cover art for the book. Unfortunately, there are no existing photographs of Mingo and only a few written accounts of his likeness have survived. This meant that my painting would become the only image in the world meant to be a portrait of this man. While this seemed like a great responsibility at first, it also left me with a considerable amount of artistic freedom. As is often the case though, I had a very clear idea from the beginning what I wanted Mingo to look like. The only deviation I made from his description in the book was that he often wore a wide-brimmed hat.
Once the painting was completed, I scanned the image into Photoshop and made some minor touchups to the color. I then experimented with several different typefaces before landing on one that I felt gave the cover image a very polished, professional style. The typeface design I created for the cover was then replicated (by the publisher) for the inside title page of the book.
The book was published by iUniverse and is now available at most major online retailers, as well as a few local New Jersey bookstores. It has received generally favorable reviews and my cousin James has appeared at many book signings and events, including one at the Monmouth County Library located down the street from the house I grew up in (see picture 4). It was an honor to see my artwork displayed in the main lobby of that public library, after all the time I spent there as a child. There is now a movement underway, led by my cousin, to have a monument erected in honor of where Mingo died. I am proud to have helped my cousin save Samuel Johnson's story from being lost to history.