Thomas Jefferson Willison has been noted as an African-American artist. Here is my research on him that shows he was clearly a white man. Some art dealer somewhere decided he was African-American, I guess...for whatever reason...

Thomas Jefferson Willison

Birth:    1864    Place:    Brent, Campbell, KY
Death:    8 Jul 1940    Place:    Cleveland Heights, Cuyahoga, OH
Occupation:    Landscape Artist
Father:    Cornelius Willison (1825-1890)
Mother:    Catherine Robertson (1827-1906)
See Family Group Sheet below

Marriage:    About 1888    Place:    KY

Wife:    Susan Myers

Birth:    Dec 1869    Place:    KY
Death:    1930    Place:    OH


1. F Child:    Adela Willison
Birth:    About 1889    Place:    KY
Spouse:    Max B. Robinson
Marriage:    After 1910    Place:    OH
Two of his paintings

Thomas Jefferson Willison (1864-1940) was born in Brent, Kentucky., into a prosperous middle-class family. Willison spent his early years working as a salesman for his father's lumber company. (The young Harlan Hubbard, landscape painter, had a studio in the Willison lumber mill). Willison studied art in nearby Cincinnati during the Duveneck years. He is noted for his intimate landscapes of the countryside in the Miami and Ohio river valleys. He died in Cleveland.
Written and submitted April 2004 by Warren Payne, art professional from Louisville, Kentucky.

Cleveland Plain Dealer obituary:
Willison, Thomas Jefferson. Born: Brent, Ky.; died 8 July 1940 (was about 76), at his Cleveland Heights home.
Attended Covington, Ky., public schools and the Cincinnati School of Art.  Worked as a salesman; “made painting his life work” in his early 30s. Noted for landscapes of the Miami Valley countryside.
Details:  studio-residence at 13450 Cedar Road, Cleveland Heights; daughter, Mrs. Max B. Robinson; funeral home, Geo. Kharer Inc. 2436 Prospect Ave. S.E. (no longer in existence); buried, Fort Mitchell, Ky., with wife, Susan Myers Willison

Census records
Name:            Thomas J Willison
Age:           64        Estimated birth year:           abt 1866
Birthplace:           Kentucky      Relation to head-of-house:           Father-in-law      Race:           White
Home in 1930:           Terrace Park, Hamilton, Ohio
Year: 1930; Census Place: Terrace Park, Hamilton, Ohio; Roll: 1818; Page:  ; Enumeration District: 319; Image: 370.0.
Max B Robinson         abt 1889      New York      Head         
Addla W Robinson      abt 1889           Wife        
Addla E Robinson       abt 1917           Daughter        
Thomas J Willison      abt 1866     Kentucky     Father-in-law     parents b. KY artist

Name:            Thomas Willison
Age in 1910:           45      Estimated birth year:       1864      Birthplace:           Kentucky
Home in 1910:       MIAMI TWP, CLERMONT, Ohio      Race:           White      Gender:           Male   Occupation:  Artist, Landscape
Series:           T624 Roll:           1160   Part:           1 Page:           126B   Year:           1910
wife Susan M. (40) KY NY KY school teacher
dtr Adela (21)

Name:            Thomas Willison
Home in 1900:       Cincinnati Ward 1, Hamilton, Ohio
Age:           34      Estimated birth year:       1866      Birthplace:           Kentucky      Race:           White
Relationship to head-of-house:       Head      Occupation:           Broker
Year: 1900; Census Place: Cincinnati Ward 1, Hamilton, Ohio; Roll: T623 1273; Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 3.
Thomas Jul 1866 (34) m. 12 yrs KY KY KY
wife Susie Dec 1869 (30) m. 12 yrs 2/1 kids KY PA KY
dtr Adela Feb 1889 (11) KY KY KY

City Directory listing
Name:            Thos. J. Willison
City:           Covington      State:           KY
Occupation:           b. k.[bookkeeper?]
Year:           1892      Location 2:           110 E. 8th

Family Group Report -

Husband:    Cornelius Willison
Birth:    24 May 1825    Place:    KY
Death:    5 Sep 1890    Place:    Campbell Co., KY
Burial:        Place:    Cold Spring First Bapt. Cem., Cold Spring, Campbell, KY
Marriage:    16 Jan 1844    Place:    Campbell Co., KY
Wife:    Catherine Robertson
Birth:    3 Feb 1827    Place:    OH
Death:    22 Oct 1906    Place:    KY
Burial:        Place:    Cold Spring First Bapt. Cem., Cold Spring, Campbell, KY
1. M Child:    Cornelius Willison
Birth:    About 1853    Place:    KY
Death:    16 Feb 1926    Place:    Campbell Co., KY
Spouse:    Melissa
2. M Child:    Nathan Willison
Birth:    About 1855    Place:    KY
3. M Child:    George Willison
Birth:    About 1859    Place:    KY
4. M Child:    William W. Willison
Birth:    About 1861    Place:    KY
Death:    2 Feb 1930    Place:    Campbell Co., KY
5. M Child:    Thomas Jefferson Willison
Birth:    1864    Place:    Brent, Campbell, KY
Death:    8 Jul 1940    Place:    Cleveland Heights, Cuyahoga, OH
Occupation:    Artist
Spouse:    Susan Myers
Marriage:    About 1888    Place:    KY

Husband’s Notes...
Cold Spring First Baptist Church Cemetery
Route 27 & Pool's Creek Road
Cold Spring, Campbell County, Kentucky
Willison,Catherine-3 Feb 1827-22 Oct 1906
Willison,Cornelius-24 May 1825-5 Sep 1890/Father
Willison,John James-21 Sep 1867-8 Feb 1868
Willison,Robert Lee-21 Sep 1867-8 Feb 1868/Baby

Cornelius Willison     Cold Springs, Campbell, KY     abt 1825     Kentucky     White     Male
Catharine Willison      Cold Springs, Campbell, KY      abt 1827      Ohio      White      Female           
Cornelius Willison     Cold Springs, Campbell, KY     abt 1852     Kentucky     White     Male         
Nathan Willison     Cold Springs, Campbell, KY     abt 1855     Kentucky     White     Male
George Willison     Cold Springs, Campbell, KY     abt 1859     Kentucky     White     Male 
William Willison     Cold Springs, Campbell, KY     abt 1861     Kentucky     White     Male              
Thomas Willison     Cold Springs, Campbell, KY     abt 1865     Kentucky     White     Male  
Woods, Betsy (61)abt 1809 at home also in household (in 1880 listed as Cornelius' mother)
Occupation listed as a farmer, lumber dealers all around them
Marriages of Campbell, Boone and Kenton Counties, Kentucky, 1795-1850
WILLISON, Cornelius & Cassey ROBERTSON, 16 Jan. 1844, married by BB, bond by Johnson Wood, Campbell Co., KY

1880    Census Place:    Cold Spring, Campbell, Kentucky
    Source:    FHL Film 1254408  National Archives Film T9-0408     Page 391C    
    Name        Relation    Sex    Marr    Race    Age    Birthplace
Cornelius WILLISON    Self    M    M    W    56    KY    Occ:    Farmer    Fa: KY    Mo: KY
Cassie WILLISON    Wife    F    M    W    52    KY    Occ:    Keeps House    Fa: KY    Mo: KY
Edward WILLISON    Son    M    S    W    22    KY    Occ:    Farmer    Fa: KY    Mo: KY
William WILLISON    Son    M    S    W    20    KY    Occ:    Farmer    Fa: KY    Mo: KY
Thomas WILLISON    Son    M        W    17    KY    Occ:    Laborer    Fa: KY    Mo: KY
Betsy WOODS    Mother    F        W    74    KY    Occ:    Lives With Son    Fa: KY    Mo: KY
Sallie SHAW    Other    F        W    18    KY    Occ:    Servant    Fa: KY    Mo: KY

Name:            Catherine Willison
Home in 1900:       Cold Springs, Campbell, Kentucky
Age:           73      Estimated birth year:       1827
Birthplace:           Ohio      Race:           White
Relationship to head-of-house:       Mother [living in household of William W. Willison and family]
Year: 1900; Census Place: Cold Springs, Campbell, Kentucky; Roll: T623 513; Page: 19A; Enumeration District: 35.