Born into slavery, Bill Traylor spent the majority of his life after emancipation as a sharecropper. It was only after 1939 that Traylor began to draw. At the age of 85, he took up a pencil and a scrap of cardboard to document his recollections and observations. From 1939 to 1942, while working on the sidewalks of Montgomery, Traylor produced nearly 1,500 pieces of art.
While Traylor received his first public exhibition in 1940, it wasn’t until the late 1970s, thirty years after his death, that his work finally began to receive broader attention.