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Jon Onye Lockard

Painter, educator, and historian, Jon Onye Lockard, was born January 25, 1932, on Detroit’s east side; his mother, Lillian Jones, came from Port Arthur, Mississippi, and his father, Cecil E. Lockard, from Marianna, Arkansas. Lockard grew up around Franklin’s Settlement House with Milt Jackson, Kenny Burrell, and Oscar Graves; he attended Norville and Smith Elementary Schools and Barbour Intermediate School. At age twelve, Lockard worked for the Overton Sign Company; he later won a job with Walker and Company, but was later rejected because of his race. Lockard graduated from Eastern High School in 1948; he then took classes at Meinzingers School of Art and worked for the Palmer Paint Company. Lockard graduated from Wayne State University in 1955 and pursued further study at the University of Toronto.

Working as a traveling portraitist in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Lockard painted portraits at the Seattle World’s Fair in 1962. In Houston, Lockard met Texas Southern University’s John Biggers. In 1967, Lockard attended Jeff Donaldson’s CONFABA at Northwestern University and witnessed the founding of the AFRICOBRA group. During this period, Lockard added the name, “Onye” which is from “Onye Eje” or Ibo language for “artistic traveler.” In 1969, Lockard attended the National Conference of Artists (NCA) meeting in Chicago. As an illustrator, Lockard contributed to independent black publishing efforts. Lockard’s drawing of angry youth, entitled What are we going to tell them? (1967) appeared on the cover of I.P.E.’s Black Books Bulletin. Known for his rich use of color and powerful use of form, Lockard’s murals find a natural home on college campuses; his piece, Continuum, spans Wayne State University’s Manoogian Center, and his other murals are located at Central State University, the University of Michigan, and Detroit’s Dr. Charles Wright Museum of African American History. Lockard’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally for several decades. Robin Dunitz featured Lockard’s mural work in Walls of Pride.

Lockard taught life drawing, portrait painting, and the art and culture of African Americans for over forty years, gaining popularity as an instructor at the University of Michigan and at Washtenaw Community College. Lockard also served as president of the NCA, and associate director of The Society for the Study of African Culture and Aesthetics. Lockard co-produced and hosted Barden Cable’s Sankofa television program. Lockard and his wife, Leslie, raised three children.

Lockard passed away on March 25, 2015.

Accession Number

A2005.021

Sex

Male

Interview Date

1/19/2005

Last Name

Lockard

Maker Category
Middle Name

Onye

Schools

Eastern High School

Norville Elementary School

Barbour Magnet Middle School

Martin Luther King Jr. Sr High School

Smith Elementary School

Wayne State University

Meinzinger School of Art

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Jon

Birth City, State, Country

Detroit

HM ID

LOC03

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring, Summer

State

Michigan

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Michigan

Birth Date

1/25/1932

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Detroit

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fried Chicken, Seafood

Death Date

3/25/2015

Short Description

Muralist, art professor, and painter Jon Onye Lockard (1932 - 2015 ) taught life drawing, portrait painting, and the art and culture of African Americans for over forty years at the University of Michigan and at Washtenaw Community College. Lockard's creative works include illustrations and murals.

Employment

Palmers Paint Products

Washtenaw Community College

University of Michigan

Favorite Color

None

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Jon Onye Lockard's Interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Jon Onye Lockard lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Jon Onye Lockard describes his maternal family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Jon Onye Lockard describes his mother's siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Jon Onye Lockard describes his maternal family's educational backgrounds and businesses

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Jon Onye Lockard talks about his mother's relocation to Detroit, Michigan and her education

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Jon Onye Lockard describes father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Jon Onye Lockard speculates about why his paternal family left Marianna, Arkansas

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Jon Onye Lockard describes his maternal uncle, Robert Jones

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Jon Onye Lockard describes his childhood household in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Jon Onye Lockard describes the neighborhood where he grew up in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Jon Onye Lockard describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood in Detroit, Michigan pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Jon Onye Lockard describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood in Detroit, Michigan pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Jon Onye Lockard talks about his childhood friends and interests in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Jon Onye Lockard lists the elementary schools and high schools he attended in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Jon Onye Lockard recalls his first job at Ovelton Sign Company in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Jon Onye Lockard describes African American sign painters' working conditions before the desegregation

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Jon Onye Lockard shares what he learned from his first job at Ovelton Sign Company in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Jon Onye Lockard talks about winning an advertisement contest in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Jon Onye Lockard remembers his interview for an internship with Walker & Company in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Jon Onye Lockard talks about his involvement in sports and clubs at Eastern High School in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Jon Onye Lockard talks about attending a prom at another high school due to the unofficial segregation at his own

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Jon Onye Lockard recalls his high school guidance counselor discouraging him from applying to college

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Jon Onye Lockard talks about attending Wayne University and Meinzinger Foundation Art School in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Jon Onye Lockard talks about working at Palmer Paint Company in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Jon Onye Lockard talks about travelling at the beginning of his art career

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Jon Onye Lockard remembers muralist John T. Biggers

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Jon Onye Lockard remembers HistoryMaker Bing Davis and the National Conference of Artists

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Jon Onye Lockard recalls joining the National Conference of Artists at its 1969 conference in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Jon Onye Lockard talks about the National Conference of Artists' evolution from a social organization to a more politically-oriented one

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Jon Onye Lockard recalls his trip with HistoryMaker Margaret Burroughs for the National Conference of Artists in Suriname

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Jon Onye Lockard talks about travelling to Suriname with the National Conference of Artists

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Jon Onye Lockard talks about his first print artwork, Black Messiah

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Jon Onye Lockard talks about the Detroit, Michigan riots inspiring his creation of 'What are We Going to Tell Them'

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Jon Onye Lockard explains the inspiration behind his painting, 'Ahm Gonna Raise This One Myself'

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Jon Onye Lockard talks about his teaching in higher education

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Jon Onye Lockard explains how perceptions of colors vary across cultures and how that impacts an African American aesthetic

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Jon Onye Lockard remembers his experience at FESTAC in Lagos, Nigeria

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Jon Onye Lockard talks about his favorite murals that he created

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Jon Onye Lockard talks about his famous recreation of Aunt Jemima in 'No More'

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Jon Onye Lockard describes his hopes for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Jon Onye Lockard reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Jon Onye Lockard reflects upon his life

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Jon Onye Lockard talks about his family

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Jon Onye Lockard describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

6$3

DATitle
Jon Onye Lockard talks about the Detroit, Michigan riots inspiring his creation of 'What are We Going to Tell Them'
Jon Onye Lockard talks about his famous recreation of Aunt Jemima in 'No More'
Transcript
The boys, that was 1967, that was during the first couple of days of the Detroit [Michigan] riots. My studio was in Ann Arbor [Michigan] at the time and actually we were on the radio--on television (unclear) and I jumped in my car and I get back home 'cause my family was in Detroit. Well the second day I went down on 12th Street actually I went down there because I had done some murals in a couple of nightclubs down there and I wanted to see if they survived, they hadn't. Rubble everywhere, kids everywhere so I saw this group of kids but I didn't pay particular attention to them because I had my camera, I'm taking pictures. I looked around and those kids are standing almost within three feet of me looking at me. So I started talking to them and they asked me who are you taking pictures of and I told them, why are you taking pictures, I told them. They said do you live here and I said yeah and we had a conversion, we ended up having about a thirty minute conversation standing there. It's struck me very deeply. The name of that particular picture you're talking about is 'What Are You Going to Tell Them' because it just impacted my mind what are we going to tell these kids. What do we tell them, how do we tell them, how do we guide them, where do we guide them to and that motivated a lot of work that I have done. In fact I did another one of a young man--a teenager and I'm sure you saw that in prints also, he's got no shirt on and it's called '[A] Dream Deferred' and I use Langston Hughes' poem on it. "What happens to a dream deferred?" These young people--(simultaneous) (unclear).$$(Simultaneous) It's interesting 'cause I was thinking not to interrupt you or anything but 'What Are We Going to Tell Them' [sic.] is the art version of 'Dream Deferred.'$$No I've got 'A Dream Deferred.'$$I know you've got one but I think when people see 'What Are We Going to Tell Them' that's--it's the intensity of their countenance as they look at you from that canvas, I mean it really makes you, and it does (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) They're looking right at you.$$--yeah, it raises a question, what are you going to tell them. And if you don't have anything to tell them, what is going to happen.$Now I know that Murry DePillars has a famous Aunt Jemima and you've got a famous Aunt Jemima? How did this Aunt Jemima thing start?$$That's a social documentary. You know, Uncle Ben's Rice and these things were all out in the public and we had to take issue with it and these were the popular things that you could really take 'cause everybody had a feeling about it, everybody had seen it and everybody had accepted it and so we could take issue with those things. That's really how it happened and turned into far more that I ever dreamed it would turn into.$$Now what does your Aunt Jemima doing (simultaneous) (unclear).$$(Simultaneous) My Aunt Jemima has a big frown on her face, her head rag--bandana is red, black and green, her fist is coming through the box where you open the box it says open at your own risk. It's titled 'No More' 'cause I felt that degradation of an African American woman and particularly for all that she represented and how it had been used, how it had been used over a long period of time. It had nothing to do with Aunt Jemima 'cause Aunt Jemima initially was first made public--first came to the public at the [1893] Chicago World's Fair [World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, Illinois] in the latter part of the nineteenth century.$$Eighteen ninety-three [1893].$$Right she was a very dignified looking woman and she introduced that product--she was hired to introduce that product but certainly not as a slave, certainly not as a mammy figure. All that came later after she had died. That all came during that terrible era of the early part of the 20th century when all that lynching was going on. That's when that became very popular. I also had an opportunity to do some work way back then for Colonel Sanders. I met him and I heard him talk, I listened to him talk about that recipe and it reminded me instantly of Aunt Jemima. All of that was in my head when I did that picture. How this slave who cooked this chicken like nobody else could cook that chicken and on her deathbed, she whisper the recipe to Colonel Harland Sanders which was a pinch of dis, d-i-s, a dash of dat, d-a-t and this image used to make me seethe. How this kind of thing could just manifest itself amongst our people. So that was my way of taking issue with it. I can't get on the street corners and fuss about it, I can't get on the soap box but I can paint a picture about it and I did. Murry painted his actually Murry painted his about two months before I painted mine.$$These are transformative pictures you have (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Yes they are, 'cause [HistoryMaker] Jeff [Donaldson] did one also. All of them are in Michael [D.] Harris's book 'Colored Pictures[: Race and Visual Representation'] which is beautiful that you could show that this is a movement thing.