Civil Rights Icon Marzette Watts’ Journey from Alabama Sit-In to New York’s Bohemian Scene Spotlighted in Hudson Valley Auction

Rare Artwork and Memorabilia Reflecting Watts’ Transformative Path from Activism to Free Jazz on the Auction Block

In 1960, after participating in the historic lunch counter sit-in at the Montgomery, Alabama courthouse, Marzette Watts found himself expelled from Alabama State College. Faced with intimidation from both law enforcement and the Ku Klux Klan, Marzette, a founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, made the life-altering decision to leave Alabama behind and embark on a new chapter in New York City.

Having been an art major at ASC, Watts continued his creative journey by enrolling at New York University (NYU), where he had the opportunity to study under the guidance of famed Amistad muralist Hale Woodruff. His pursuit of knowledge and culture also took him to the Sorbonne in France, where he further honed his artistic sensibilities.

Upon settling into the vibrant community of 27 Cooper Square in Manhattan, Marzette Watts became a part of an eclectic circle that included luminaries such as Le Roi Jones, Allen Ginsberg, Larry Rivers, and Free Jazz innovator Archie Shepp. The fervent activism of the Free Jazz movement would ultimately redirect Marzette’s creative genius from the realm of painting to the world of music.

During this transformative period, he forged a close friendship with Lawrence Weiner, with whom he collaborated on soundtracks. Subsequently, Marzette ventured into the music industry by establishing his own recording companies and, in time, found himself sharing his knowledge as an educator at Wesleyan University.

Now, a unique opportunity arises to explore the multifaceted legacy of Marzette Watts as Hudson Valley Auctioneers prepares to present 150 lots encompassing his oils, ink on paper creations, and watercolors. This extraordinary collection also features rare photographs and a Delancey Street Museum flyer highlighting a Bob Thompson exhibit. Art enthusiasts and history buffs alike are invited to participate in this in-person and liveauctioneers event, offering a chance to own a piece of Marzette Watts’ remarkable journey.

For those eager to delve deeper into the life and artistry of Marzette Watts, a comprehensive bound color catalog is available for purchase. This catalog includes an in-depth biography of the artist and showcases images of all 150 lots. To obtain a copy, please send a check for $40 ($35 for the catalog and $5 for shipping) made out to Hudson Valley Auctioneers at the provided address. Alternatively, payments can be made with a credit card by contacting Neil Vaughn at 914-489-2399 or via email at

Event Preview Details:

  • Sunday, October 8th: Preview from 2 pm to 5 pm.
  • Monday, October 9th: Preview from 5 pm until the auction at 7 pm.
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