Paul R. Jones’s life was testament to his pursuit of justice in an exclusionary society. He graduated from Howard University in Washington, DC, in 1949. Jones applied and was accepted to the University of Alabama Law School-only to be rejected in February 1949 once Jones· identity as an African-American became known. A letter from William F. Adams, Dean of Admissions, made it clear that Jones’ race was the reason for his rejection.
Undaunted, Jones fought for Civil Rights as a federal employee and earned a master’s degree in urban studies from Governors State College in Illinois in 1974. Jones began amassing his renowned collection of African-American art in the 1960s. At a time when the work of black artists was overlooked and undervalued by much of the art world, Jones encouraged bla ck artists, purcha sed their work, and lobbied galleries and museums to display it.
In an extraordinary act of generosity to the university that once rejected him, Jones donated 1,700 pieces valued at $5 million to the University of Alabama in 2008. The Paul R. Jones Museum was created in 201 1 to exhibit Paul R. Jones’s collection of American Art. Over the course of his life, Jones amassed one of the most comprehensive collections of modern AfricanAmerican art in the world. The current 2,000+ item collection is housed both at the University and at this museum. It offers a rare sustained opportunity to study the long journey to civil rights through African-American visual arts.
“While this may be gratuitous, I am adding that we at the University of Alabama are convinced that relation ships between the races, in this section of the country at least, are not likely to be improved by pressure on behalf of members of the colored race in an institution maintained by the State for members of the white race. On the contrary, we feel that inter-racial relationships would suffer if there is insistence that the issue be joined at this time. The better elements of both races deplore anything that tends to retard or jeopardize the development of better relationships between the races. For these reasons, therefore, we hope that you can persuade yourself not to press further your application for admission here.”