African-American artist and arts activist Andrews was an outsider by birth and politics but not an outsider, or self-taught artist.
Driven by an early passion for drawing and a desperate Depression-era childhood in Plainview, Georgia, Andrews attended college on a 4-H scholarship, served in the Air Force and earned a BFA from the prestigious Art Institute of Chicago. A black man on the GI Bill, Andrews had never even visited a museum until he went to art school. His paintings celebrated narrative; he painted the geography and the lives of black folks in the Jim Crow South and the striving, struggling inner cities of the North. Author Benson, her late husband, Jim Haskins, and Andrews (who died in 2006) collaborated on several projects celebrating African-American history and achievement, including John Lewis in the Lead (2006); her passion for her subject shines clearly in the text, brief though it is. She introduces readers to young Benny, who grows up surrounded by cotton fields, finds inspiration in the church and continues with his education even as his classmates drop out to work cotton full-time. She closes with his activism on behalf of “outsider” artists: “He believed that art was for everyone.” This singular biography refocuses attention on the struggle for social justice through the extraordinary visions of this singular painter—every illustration is the artist’s own.
Indelible. (Picture book/biography. 4-8)