Grady Abrams 1939 – 2018
A Retrospective Exhibition
September 21 – November 20, 2020
Coordinated by The Greater Augusta Arts Council and The 1970 Augusta Riot Observance
Click on any of the images below for more information, including purchase price, for each piece.
About the Artist
One of the pivotal figures in the story of the 1970 uprising in Augusta is Augusta native Grady Abrams. Mr. Abrams had a very diverse professional career, working as a math instructor at Lucy Craf t Laney High School, his alma mater, and then later becoming a top selling insurance agent with Metropolitan Insurance Company. He lef t Augusta for a short stint to work for Xerox in Richmond, Virginia before returning to work for the next 27 years at Bechtel Savannah River, Inc rising to the position of labor relations manager. Mr. Abrams was born into the segregated South, but his community boasted some of the best schools for African Americans at that time. He was educated at C.T. Walker Elementary School, the aforementioned Lucy Craf t Laney High School and Paine College, the only historically black college located in Augusta.
Of all of his life pursuits, Mr. Abrams’ legacy is firmly tied to two things: his love of painting and community activism. The latter found him in the middle of a turning point in Augusta’s history: The uprising of May 11 – 12th, 1970, most remembered as the 1970 Augusta Riot. Mr. Abrams was one of a few African American city councilmen at the time of the riot. In fact, Mr. Abrams formed a grassroots watchdog group dubbed ‘The Committee of Ten’ by the local media. Led by Mr. Abrams, Leon Larue and other activists, the Committee of Ten initiated social action measures to include voter registration drives and community rallies that called attention to the problems plaguing many of the African American communities in Augusta. Af ter viewing the badly beaten body of 16 year old Charles Oatman, Mr. Abrams took to the airwaves to inform the Augusta community of what he observed at Mays Mortuary on May 9th and to put the city leaders on notice. Two days later Mr. Abrams and other activists would find themselves in the middle of a riot that would garner national attention. During the latter portion of his life Mr. Abrams became thoroughly immersed in his love of painting. Ever one to push the envelope and be the provocateur, he of ten tackled subjects others refused to talk about. One such piece brought together one of the biggest proponents of segregation in 20th Century politics, South Carolina senator Strom Thurmond, and his African American daughter, Mrs. Essie Mae Washington-Williams.
Corey Washington, a longtime friend of Mr. Abrams said that one of the life lessons he learned from Mr. Abrams was to “document everything” so you would have the opportunity to tell your story and not let others define who you are. Eric Abrams, son of Grady Abrams, probably described his father best when he said,
“He was a man who loved his community. He dedicated most of his life to fighting justice and made sure education was the key to gaining knowledge. He taught us at an early age to always fight for what’s right and to give to the less fortunate. My father made some mistakes in his life but he always learned from each one of them to become a better person.”
The GAAC credits and thanks Corey Rogers, Historian at The Lucy Craf t Laney Museum of Black History and member of the 1970 Riot Observance Committee, for this “About the Artist” section.