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James Earl Reid

Renowned sculptor James Earl Reid was born at Stump Hope Farm in Princeton, North Carolina, on September 9, 1942. In 1970, Reid was awarded his master’s degree in sculpture from the University of Maryland College Park.

While attending the University of Maryland, Reid worked as a graduate teaching assistant, and remained there after earning his M.A. degree, rising to become an assistant professor over the next eleven years. In 1979, Reid received his first major commission for a work of art when the City of Baltimore asked him to create a sculpture of jazz legend Billie Holiday, who spent her childhood there; the sculpture was unveiled in 1985 in the Druid Hill section of Baltimore.

The same year as the as the Billie Holiday sculpture's unveiling, Reid found himself in the center of a controversy that would take him to the United States Supreme Court. Commissioned by the Community for Creative Non-Violence (CCNV), Reid had been asked to create a sculpture for a Washington, D.C., Christmas pageant; his submission, Third World America: A Contemporary Nativity, featured a homeless family holding a newborn child over a steam vent, and featured the words “And still there is no room at the inn,” on the base. The struggle with the piece began early, when initially the National Park Service refused to put the piece on display. The bigger issue, however, arose with the CCNV, when both they and Reid filed competing copyright claims on the work of art. After an initial District Court ruling favored CCNV, the case was taken to the Supreme Court, where Justice Thurgood Marshall wrote the decision in favor of Reid and all independent contractors; the case brought international attention to concerns for the rights of artists to retain creative and intellectual property.

After his landmark case settled, Reid continued to create works of art, holding numerous one-man shows and participating in many group shows.

Accession Number

A2004.117

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/3/2004 |and| 8/4/2004

8/3/2004

8/4/2004

Last Name

Reid

Maker Category
Middle Name

Earl

Occupation
Organizations
Search Occupation Category
First Name

James

Birth City, State, Country

Princeton

HM ID

REI02

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring

State

North Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

North Carolina

Favorite Quote

You're The Artist.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Maryland

Interview Description
Birth Date

9/9/1942

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Baltimore

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Fruit, Nuts

Short Description

Sculptor and painter James Earl Reid (1942 - ) was a renowned artist who served as an assistant professor at University of Maryland for eleven years. He was known for his legal case involving the Community for Creative Non-Violence, which brought international attention to the concerns for the rights of artists to retain creative and intellectual property over their work.

Employment

University of Maryland, College Park

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of James Earl Reid's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - James Earl Reid lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - James Earl Reid describes his maternal family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - James Earl Reid talks about his father, John Lee Reid

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - James Earl Reid talks about his family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - James Earl Reid talks about his aunts and uncles

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - James Earl Reid describes his siblings and moving to Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - James Earl Reid describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - James Earl Reid recalls learning about race and racism as a child

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - James Earl Reid describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - James Earl Reid talks about the feeling of levitating as a child, pt.1

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - James Earl Reid talks about the feeling of levitating as a child, pt.2

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - James Earl Reid talks about trying to maintain a childlike approach to art

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - James Earl Reid describes his childhood drawings

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - James Earl Reid shares his elementary school memories

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - James Earl Reid describes his favorite subjects and the various schools he attended

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - James Earl Reid describes attending Southern High School in Cherry Hill, Maryland

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - James Earl Reid talks about his favorite musicians and television shows

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - James Earl Reid talks about studying art at Southern High School in Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - James Earl Reid describes the advantage of drawing live models

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - James Earl Reid talks about his early works of sculpture

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - James Earl Reid talks about his mother's reaction to his wanting to be an artist

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - James Earl Reid describes the Renaissance artists he admires

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - James Earl Reid describes his activities at Southern High School in Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - James Earl Reid talks about winning a scholarship to Maryland Institute College of Art

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - James Earl Reid describes his mentors

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - James Earl Reid talks about learning the Maroger technique

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - James Earl Reid describes his attending Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - James Earl Reid recalls the struggles he faced as a representational artist

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - James Earl Reid talks about successful contemporary realist artists

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - James Earl Reid talks about Norman Rockwell, realism, and fine art

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - James Earl Reid talks about attending and teaching at Maryland Institute College of Art

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - James Earl Reid talks about working as an assistant to Pierre du Fayette in Columbia, Maryland

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - James Earl Reid describes attending graduate school at the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - James Earl Reid talks about art critics and consumers

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - James Earl Reid talks about contemporary black artists

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - James Earl Reid talks about the inspiration for his 1972 piece, Portrait of the Artist as the Young Man, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - James Earl Reid talks about the inspiration for his 1972 piece, Portrait of the Artist as the Young Man, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - James Earl Reid remembers the assassination of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - James Earl Reid talks about his artwork dedicated to Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - James Earl Reid talks about teaching at the University of Maryland at College Park

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - James Earl Reid describes teaching at various colleges

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - James Earl Reid talks about being commissioned to sculpt Billie Holiday in Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - James Earl Reid describes his 1979 sculptures of Billie Holiday, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - James Earl Reid describes his 1979 sculptures of Billie Holiday, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - James Earl Reid describes how elements of his Billie Holiday sculptures were excluded

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - James Earl Reid describes his art piece, Third World America

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - James Earl Reid talks about his copyright disagreement over Third World America

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - James Earl Reid talks about the 1989 U.S. Supreme Court case, Community for Creative Non-Violence v. Reid

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - James Earl Reid talks about his activism

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - James Earl Reid reflects upon his legal battle over Third World America

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - James Earl Reid describes how the 1989 Supreme Court case, Community for Creative Non-Violence v. Reid impacted him

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - James Earl Reid describes his hopes and concerns for the black community

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - James Earl Reid comments on art featuring black historical figures

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - James Earl Reid expresses his regrets

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - James Earl Reid talks about his children

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - James Earl Reid reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - James Earl Reid reflects upon his artistry

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - James Earl Reid narrates his photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - James Earl Reid narrates his photographs, pt. 2

DASession

2$2

DATape

6$6

DAStory

5$7

DATitle
James Earl Reid describes his art piece, Third World America
James Earl Reid talks about the 1989 U.S. Supreme Court case, Community for Creative Non-Violence v. Reid
Transcript
Now that [his art piece, Third World America] was commissioned by an organization that has done a lot to put forth the plight of the homeless and the--to politicians to, to try to gain public support to do something about them.$$Yeah, to do something about this, about the situation. This is in 1985 when I think the homeless issue had been probably, you know, pushing towards the forefront as, as something of great concern within the national conscious of the American people and you know, so had it probably coming forth about two years prior to 1985 when I created this work, but in, right at the time when I was about to throw down as I said suing the City of Baltimore [Maryland] I got a call from Mitch Snyder who's the advocate for the homeless in, in Washington D.C., who had been fasting, etc., and you know to get rights for the poor and the homeless, and rights and benefits for the poor and the homeless, and so they had an issue which basically was a political issue that they wanted to assist in my assistance on help resolving and that is in creating this modern (unclear) or contemporary nativity scene that depicted a, openly depicted a black homeless family on a steam grate, which is a characteristic image of the homeless in Washington, D.C. 'cause they, they habitated on steam grates. And because I had seen a scene of a, not only the homeless living in Baltimore, but also of a homeless, young homeless girl cohabitating with the homeless underneath the Jones Falls Expressway Bridge a half a block or so from my studio. And she was walking around there with a baby in her arm and there were people--before I saw her there were people standing up above looking down below and pointing at this girl walking with this baby and of course I stepped up and looked at the scene and there it was I saw something, you know, with the power and interest in terms of subject matter that I basically as an artist just filed away for the future, not really thinking that I would be engaged to do a contemporary nativity scene that was derivative of the original, well the homeless family of, of Mary, Joseph, and the Christ child, you know, you know in their nativity scene and this would be viewed as contemporary nativity scene using the homeless, a black homeless family as the, as the primary subject matter. So, this young black girl that I saw with a baby really was a, an authentic catalyst for, for this, for my saying yes, I mean like that is, that is what I like to do. That's why, you know, so I agreed to doing this, to doing this homeless monument at cost, which supposed to have cost about 15, estimated at 15,000 dollar, but ultimately cost 19,500 dollars, 4,500 dollars of it came out of my own pocket. But, I created this work to highlight the plight of homelessness in America.$$Okay, and they, they paid you the money. There was a certain, there was a schedule right of when to be finished with certain parts of it and they, and they paid you on schedule as per a verbal agreement I read.$$Yes.$$$And, so, you know, this got into, evolved in a very contested battle between them and I, which basically it affronted the good original of the original intent of our alliance in getting together.$$So they supposed that they should be able to just sell these representations of the work and not given anything back.$$Well, the iss--$$That they owned it.$$Yeah, they, they owned it. They had absolute power and control and, you know, I have, would have no say in it, and that's what they, ultimately that's what they strived for, but they didn't know what they were doing. They were allying themselves with major corporation in a major corporation dispute that in terms of cop, copyright law and a work-for-hire and they tried to con, construct a case based on the Alden Decision in copyright law which said that the commission party was the author based on the fact that it was a work-for-hire. Well, my case was not a work-for-hire. I was not, I was an independent contractor, which was ultimately decided by the Supreme Court of the United States.$$They paid you no benefits, they didn't pay you any taxes or anything on your salary for that? There was no salary it was just--you were paid straight up as a contractor?$$Right, and so they-the important fact is I was not their employee. If I were their employee, if I could be construed, which they tried to fabricate that I was their employee, then they would own the copyright outright. They wouldn't have to share with me or whatever at all or they would have full control of it. And that, that kind of position as I said aligned them with major corporations who wanted to assume that same kind of position of authority over and control over independent contractors, and that, that issue just so happened was, you know, moving to the forefront by, by other decisions besides the Alden Decision as a matter to be decided before the Supreme Court of the United States and interestingly enough the case CCNV v. Reid and the gang I wanna point out they were the protagonist or antagonist, I was simply defending myself in carrying the issue forward all the way to the Supreme Court, defending myself, defending my rights in the work that I knew that I had, but somehow was arrested from me initially in the lower court who ruled that it was a work-for-hire, which is pure fictional, you know, again that was based on the fact that they used the Alden Decision and the Alden Decision argument, but ultimately I prevailed, prevailed through the Appellate Court and prevailed through the Supreme Court of the United States. And what I wanna bring into play right here is that the fact is what I'm very proud of is that Thurgood Marshall wrote the opinion, you know, and that connects me with, you know, in depth with one of my great heroes and our, you know, great heroes in the black community.$$Yeah, and it's also a landmark decision for artists and writers and other creative people all over the world.$$Exactly.