This Day in History: 1918-04-02

Renowned African-Americccan artist Charles Wilbert White, Jr. is born. White was known for his chronicling of African American related subjects in paintings, drawings, lithographs, and murals. Among White’s most noted works are:  The Contribution of the Negro to American Democracy , a mural at Hampton University (pictured); J’Accuse, a series of charcoal drawings depicting a variety of African-Americans from all ages and walks of life; the Wanted posters, a series of paintings based on old runaway slave posters; and Homage to Langston Hughes. An early activist, as a teenager, White volunteered his talents and became the house artist at the National Negro Congress in Chicago. Later, in a union with fellow black artists, White was arrested while picketing. White won a grant during the seventh grade to attend Saturday art classes at the Art Institute of Chicago. After reading Alain Locke’s book The New Negro: An Interpretation, a critique of the Harlem Renaissance, White’s social views changed. He learned after reading Locke’s text about important African American figures in American history, and questioned his teachers on why they were not taught to students in school, causing some to label him a “rebel problematic child”. White did not graduate from high school, having lost a year due to his refusal to attend class after being disillusioned with the teaching system. While he was encouraged by his art teachers to submit his art works and won various scholarships, these would later be taken away from him as an “error” and given to whites instead. He was admitted to two art schools, each then pulled his acceptance because of his race. White ultimately received a full scholarship to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Learn more.