Ernie Barnes was an athlete and artist who grew up in Durham, North Carolina. He played football at Hillside High School, Durham’s Black high school during segregation. Barnes went on to play football and study art at North Carolina Central University. After college Barnes played professional football for the NFL for six years. He played for the San Diego Chargers and the Denver Broncos. He retired at age 28 and devoted the rest of his life to painting. His signature style of painting elongated human figures in action. Barnes created many paintings that were inspired by his own experience as an athlete. His subjects often relate to sports, dancing, and music.