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Charles Henry Alston papers, 1924-1980

Alston, Charles Henry, 1907-1977

Painter, Draftsmen (artists), Sculptor, Educator

This site provides access to the papers of Charles Henry Alston in the Archives of American Art that were digitized in 2010. The papers have been scanned in their entirety, and total 948 images.

Funding for the digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Collection Information

Size: 0.9 linear ft.

Summary: The scattered papers of African-American painter, muralist, illustrator, sculptor, and educator Charles Henry Alston (1907-1977) measure 0.9 linear feet and date from 1924-1980. The bulk of the collection documents his personal and professional relationships with figures of the Harlem Renaissance. Researchers should note that this collection contains very little documentation on Alston's actual federal WPA work with the Harlem Art Workshop, the Harlem Artists Guild, or his Harlem Hospital murals completed in 1940. A photograph of Alston in 1937 is likely the only reference to the actual WPA murals in this collection.

Biographical/Historical Note

Charles Henry "Spinky" Alston (1907-1977) was a painter and an educator from New York, N.Y. Charles Alston was born in Charlotte, N.C. and grew up in Harlem. He was director of the Harlem Art Workshop during the Great Depression, along with sculptor Henry Bannarn. There he taught and mentored African-American painter Jacob Lawrence, as well as Romare Bearden, among others. Alston also helped form the Harlem Artists Guild, which pressured the government to be more inclusive in its grant giving. He was an instructor at the Art Students League (1950-1971) and at the City College of New York (1959-1977).


The collection was donated by Aida Winters and Rousmaniere Alston Wilson, Charles Alston's sisters, in 1982 and 1984.

Related Materials

Additional Charles Henry Alston papers are also located at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library.

Also found in the Archives of American Art are two oral history interviews with Charles Henry Alston, one conducted by Harlan Phillips on September 28, 1965 and another by Al Murray on October 19, 1968.


Funding for the digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.