Home / Entertainment / John Robinson: Artist and Survivor

John Robinson: Artist and Survivor


In the annals of history, there are stories that stand as a testament of the human spirit. Among those stories is the journey of John Robinson, a man who has experienced both racial discrimination and terminal illness, and turned his experiences into art. 

Born in Lowndes County, Georgia, Robinson was born at the height of the civil rights acts. Later in his life, he ventured into the citrus industry in Florida in the 1970’s through 1980’s and faced the harsh reality of occupational racism.  

Because of this, Robinson decided to speak up by lodging a federal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission which grew into a landmark class action lawsuit as Robinson v. Caulkins. 

“It was the first one of its kind in the citrus industry. I was involved in the civil litigation, and they used my case for references,” said Robinson.  

After 12 years, Robinson, alongside numerous plaintiffs, fought to the very end. In 1994 the court ruled in their favor, delivering an astounding victory against racism. 

Some years later Robinson was faced with a different adversary when he was diagnosed with stage four esophageal cancer. To get through the overwhelming emotions, Robinson started using art to express his emotions. 

“I started painting when I was six, I used to trace pirates from a matchbox. I studied at the school of art in Minnesota, the techniques I used was mostly scaling,” said Robinson. 

Robinson was given two to six months to live. A doctor found a nest of tumors on the right side of his stomach and had to undergo surgery where his entire stomach was removed. After surgery he went through 43 radiation treatments and 43 chemo treatments. Once he started feeling better, he started painting and drawing again.  

Viewers can see some of the main messages through Robinson’s artwork. Like his painting “Man With No Plan.” 

“When I was taking chemotherapy, I was on navaraxine five, I would blister up real bad cause I couldn’t be in sun. I couldn’t use restrooms that someone had already used ‘cause my immune system was bad, I lost all my teeth,” said Robinson. “I felt hopeless for a minute, but not helpless, that why I like “Man With No Plan.” You see paint splashed against the wall from being disgusted.” 

“Then there is “A Chamber of Reflection.” When I was recovering, I saw a butterfly and it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen. I wanted to show that in my painting. The man in the picture looks skinny and weak but when you flip it over you see a muscular man,” said Robinson. 

John also incorporated his time in the civil litigation into his drawing “Expedition to Equality,” which features Martin Luther King Jr. 

As of now John Robinson is feeling better and wants the viewers of his art to understand the message of his art: Sustain hope.  

John said, “In the mist of your darkest hours and you see a spectrum of light, that’s a sign of great hope. Live the life you love and love the life you live; you only get one chance at this.” 

The rest of John Robinsons exhibit is located on the third floor of Odum Library as well as information of his autobiography “Chicken Scratch.” 


Written by Jasmine Hightower, Entertainment Editor. Photos by Jasmine Hightower.

Check Also

VSUPD Crime Blotter: Rumors and Suspicious Activity

Yik Yak users create sexual rumors on VSU campus  On April 3, 2024, at approximately ...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *