Skip to Main Content

Charles White

Who Was Charles White?

Charles Wilbert White, Jr. (April 2, 1918 – October 3, 1979) was an American artist known for his chronicling of African American related subjects in paintings and murals. White's best known work is The Contribution of the Negro to American Democracy, a mural at Hampton University. In 2018, the centenary year of his birth, the first major retrospective exhibition of his work was organized by the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Modern Art.

From 1964 to his death in 1979, White was on the faculty at Otis College of Art and Design (then known as Otis Art Institute), eventually serving as Chair of the Drawing Dept. While  at Otis, he was a beacon for young African American artists who came to study with him, among them Alonzo Davis, David Hammons, and Kerry James Marshall.

An elementary school has been named after him and is located on the former Otis College campus.

From Wikipedia

One of His Best-Known Works

One of White's best known works is a mural, The Contribution of the Negro to American Democracy at Hampton University, a historically black college/university (HBCU.) Measuring 12x7 feet, the mural depicts a number of notable African-Americans including Denmark Vesey, Nat Turner, Peter Salem, George Washington Carver, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, and Marian Anderson.

In 2021, the National Trust awarded a grant to Hampton to help preserve the mural. More information

Other Good Information

Miller, M.H. (September 28, 2018). "The Man Who Taught a Generation of Black Artists Gets His Own Retrospective". New York Times.

Charles White: A Retrospective, October 7, 2018–January 13, 2019 at The Museum of Modern Art. (Good video on page.) This retrospective then travelled to LACMA, February 17-June 9, 2019.

In conjunction with the retrospective, an exhibition entitled Life Model: Charles White and his Students will be held at the Charles White Elementary School Gallery on the former Otis campus, 2401 Wilshire Boulevard, from February 16-September 19, 2019.

A Few Books in the Otis College Library

Otis College of Art and Design | 9045 Lincoln Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90045 | MyOtis

Millard Sheets Library | MyOtis | 310-665-6930 | Ask a Librarian