Subject is grandmother of donor. Exhibited May 15 to July 15, 1964, Bowdoin College, Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine exhibition "The Portrayal of the Negro in American Painting." Catalogue of this exhibition in Chicago Historical Society Library.
Portrait of Mrs. John (Mary Richardson) Jones, 1819-1910, three quarter length seated in chair, facing right. She is wearing a black dress trimmed with black and white lace and a brooch. Over her arm is draped a dark red shawl. Her left hand rests on arm of chair. She wears spectacles; wears a ring on left hand.
Free blacks from the South, John H. Jones (c. 1816-79) and his wife, Mary Richardson Jones (1819-1910), moved to Chicago in 1845. A tailor by trade, John Jones became one of the nation’s wealthiest African-Americans and a nationally known abolitionist. Mary Jones worked with her husband to make their home a haven for fugitive slaves and a meeting place for abolitionists, including Frederick Douglass and John Brown. She was also active in the women’s suffrage movement. Their greatest achievement came in 1865 with the repeal of the Illinois Black Laws. For seventeen years they had lobbied against these statutes, which prohibited African-Americans from settling in Illinois and from serving on juries and testifying in court against whites. These laws, John Jones argued, violated fundamental democratic principles that concerned whites as well as African-Americans: “It is not the complexion or shades of men we are discussing; it is the right of all…the interest of one, is the interest of all.”