Black History Month – Charles W White, Artist

Charles Wilbur White, Artist

Charles W White, Artist Source George White in Public Places

Charles W White was born April 12, 1918 in Chicago, Illinois. At an early age he discovered he had artistic talent. While in High School his drawing won a art competition and earned him Saturday classes at the Art Institute.

He went on to earn a full time scholarship at the Art Institute and expanded his portfolio to included charcoal drawings and oil paintings.He was awarded two other art scholarships, but both were withdrawn when it was discovered he was black.

He began to focus on blacks and the social injustices that they faced. In 1938 he worked with the WPA, painting murals. His first commissioned mural was Five Great American Negroes. This mural features Sojourner Truth, Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglass, George Washington Carver and Marian Anderson.

In 1943 he was drafted and during his service he developed a very severe case of TB. He spent 3 years in a Veterans Hospital in New York, and had to limit his use of oils, as they aggravated his condition.

In the 60s and 70s he created a series of “Wanted” posters based on pre Civil War runaway slave placards.

White died October 3, 1979 of congestive heart failure, caused by his long fight with TB.

Charles W. White said of his work:  “I use Negro subject matter because Negroes are closest to me. But I am trying to express a universal feeling through them, a meaning for all men… All my life, I’ve been painting a simple painting. This does not mean that I am a man without anger — I’ve had my work in museum’s where I wasn’t allowed to see it. But what I pour into my work is the challenge of how beautiful life can be.”

John Brown Only White Man He Drew

John Brown – 1938
Portrait of John Brown – 1959
John Brown – 1949










White only drew one white man, John Brown.  A testament to the level of respect he had for John Brown.


Owen Brown’s Gravestone Located By White’s Son

Ian White, son of Charles W White is the person who located the missing Owen Brown gravestone in 2012. The gravestone is being held in a secure location until it can be replaced on Brown’s Mountain. Read about Ian White and the Owen gravestone in this post.

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