Ernie Barnes, The Artist of the “Sugar Shack” Painting on Sitcom ‘Good Times’

1 Posted by - September 17, 2015 - Art, BLACK ART, LATEST POSTS, Looking Black On Today

Do you remember the painting Sugar Shack on the sitcom “Good Times?” If you were like most children growing up during that time, you might have thought J.J (Jimmie Walker) had painted it.  No, it was not the work of Jimmie Walker. But it was the work of an African-American man named “.” Ernie Barnes a real painter who grew up in Durham, North Carolina during the Jim Crow era. He was also a professional football player and actor.


Barnes grew up in a part of Durham, North Carolina called “the bottom.” His father worked as a shipping clerk for the big tobacco company in the area, and his mother was in charge of the household staff for a prominent Durham Attorney, Frank L. Fuller, Jr. Barnes often accompanied his mother to work on days she  would allow. On those days Barnes spent his time looking through the Fuller’s art books and listening to classical music while in the study. By the time Barnes entered first grade he was already familiar with the works of Michelangelo, Rubens and Delacroix. (

Barnes later attended Hillside High School where he became captain of the football team. By the time he graduated he had 26 athletic scholarship offers. Due to segregation he could not attend well-known schools in the area such as Duke University or the University of North Carolina. His mother promised to help him get a car if he stayed in the state and lived at home. So, Barnes attended the all- North Carolina College (Known today as North Carolina Central University). Barnes majored in Art on a full athletic scholarship.


Barnes first painting was sold in 1959 for $90 dollars to Boston Celtic Sam Jones, the painting was called Slow Dance. Barnes created the painting Sugar Shack in the 1970s that most people remember on Good Times. The was described by Barnes as being a recollection of his childhood experience.




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