African American artist learns art through a cracked door in segregated Mississippi

By: Three Times Dot Org LLC
Award-winning Door Ajar - The M.B. Mayfield Story
Award-winning Door Ajar - The M.B. Mayfield Story
OXFORD, Miss. - April 14, 2019 - PRLog -- Door Ajar – The M.B. Mayfield Story is a documentary that tells the little-known story of M.B. Mayfield, an African American living in segregated Mississippi, a struggling roadside artist who hones his trade through a rather unusual and daring method with the help of Stuart R. Purser.

Mayfield was discovered roadside in 1949 by Purser, who was interested in his sculptures and was the head of the art department at the University of Mississippi. At the time, the University of Mississippi was described as one of the last bastions of segregation in the South. In a risky move, Purser gave Mayfield a job as a janitor in the art department and set up a workspace in the broom closet of his classroom. Mayfield would sit in on his lectures, learning the art trade through a cracked door.

Listening in on Purser's lectures, Mayfield learned to become a prolific landscape painter, often depicting African Americans in rural settings and their place in society at the time. Through patronage from Purser and Southern author William Faulkner, and with sheer perseverance, Mayfield would eventually make enough from his work to support himself.

Mayfield was studying art in a closet 13 years before James Meredith integrated the University of Mississippi amidst the deadly Ole Miss riot of 1962. The riot was a culmination of Southern segregationist hatred against desegregation of the school, and rioters would face nearly a third of all United States marshals. 70 years later, the University is still working through civil rights issues such as relocating glorified confederate statues from campus.

70 years ago, African Americans were barred from entering college with whites. Today, systemic socio-economic realities still pose a barrier for many people of color from getting a higher education. M.B Mayfield's story is a stark reminder that every step towards social and racial equality is a step towards a better and brighter future.

In February Door Ajar won Best Mississippi Feature at the 2019 Oxford Film Festival which is Mississippi's premiere film festival.

In April Door Ajar was invited to open and close the Tupelo Film Festival.

Director of Door Ajar, John Reyer Afamasaga will continue to engage with the community and has begun production on two new films to explore inter-societal connections.

About the Director

John Reyer Afamasaga is a New Zealand born expat currently living in the American South. Afamasaga moved to Oxford, Mississippi in 2017 with his wife, and almost immediately began volunteering at the Oxford Film Festival. In 2018 he began working on the documentary films The Yard (2018) and Door Ajar. The common threads between his films and his life are the similarities between his homeland and the American South. He believes capturing these stories are more important than ever in the current backdrop of American politics. Afamasaga believes in confronting issues raised in The Yard and Door Ajar in creative and exploratory methods and hopes to continue learning from the community and contributing in positive ways.


The Yard (2018) – Documentary

A history professor in Memphis Tennessee discovers the parking lot of the church he attends used to be a slave yard belonging to a general in the Confederate army.

Included with Amazon Prime:

Door Ajar – The M.B. Mayfield Story (2019) – Documentary

From inside a broom closet through a cracked door, an African American janitor listens and learns art in a segregated Mississippi university.

Currently showing at film festivals


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Page Updated Last on: Apr 14, 2019

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