The Boy Who Painted Christ Black
He was the smartest boy in the Muskogee County School - for colored children. Everybody even
remotely connected with the school knew this. The teacher always pronounced his name with profound
gusto as she pointed him out as the ideal student. Once I heard her say: “If he were white he might, some
day, become President.” Only Aaron Crawford wasn’t white; quite the contrary. His skin was so solid
black that it glowed, reflecting an inner virtue that was strange, and beyond my comprehension.
In many ways he looked like something that was awkwardly put together. Both his nose and his
lips seemed a trifle too large for his face. To say he was ugly would be unjust and to say he was
handsome would be gross exaggeration. Truthfully, I could never make up my mind about him.
Sometimes he looked like something out of a book of ancient history...looked as if he was left over from
that magnificent era before the machine age came and marred the earth’s natural beauty.
His great variety of talent often startled the teachers. This caused his classmates to look upon him
with a mixed feeling of awe and envy.
Before Thanksgiving, he always drew turkeys and pumpkins on the blackboard. On George
Washington’s birthday, he drew large American flags surrounded by little hatchets. It was these small
masterpieces that made him the most talked-about colored boy in Columbus, Georgia. The Negro
principal of the Muskogee County School that he would some day be a great painter, like Henry O.
For the teacher’s birthday, which fell on a day about a week before commencement, Aaron
Crawford painted the picture that caused an uproar, and a turning point, at the Muskogee County School.
The moment he entered the room that morning, all eyes fell on him. Besides his torn book holder, he
was carrying a large-framed concern wrapped in old newspapers. As he went to his seat, the teacher’s
eyes followed his every motion, a curious wonderment mirrored in them conflicting with the half-smile
that wreathed her face.
Aaron put his books down, them smiling broadly, advanced toward the teacher’s desk. His alert
eyes were so bright with joy that they were almost frightening. .. Temporarily, there was no other sound
in the room.
Aaron stared questioningly at her and she moved her hand back to the present cautiously, as if it
were a living thing with vicious characteristics. I am sure it was the one thing she least expected.
With a quick, involuntary movement I rose up from my desk. A series of submerged murmurs
spread through the room rising to a distinct monotone. The teacher turned toward the children, staring
reproachfully. They did not move their eyes from the present that Aaron had brought her... It was a large
picture of Christ -- painted black!
Aaron Crawford went back to his seat, a feeling of triumph reflecting in his every movement.
The teacher faced us. Her curious half-smile had blurred into a mild bewilderment. She searched
the bright faces before her and started to smile again, occasionally stealing quick glances at the large
picture propped on her desk, as though doing so were forbidden amusement.