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 965 images.
Image assets for this folder have not been fully processed.
We apologize for any inconvenience.
Jayna M. Hanson
Scope and Contents
The scattered papers of African American and Harlem Renaissance 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.
Scattered correspondence includes general correspondence; letters concerning Alston's artistic endeavors; and personal letters from friends and family. Found is a copy of a thank you note from Eudora Welty to John Woodburn for a jacket design presumably by Alston; letters from Harlem Renaissance figures and personal friends Romare Bearden, Byron Brown, Jacob Lawrence, and Hale Woodruff.
Commission files are for Alston's murals including those in the Golden State Mutual Life Insurance building in Los Angeles, California (1947); and the addition to the Harlem Hospital (1965); and the Family and Criminal Courts Building in the Bronx, New York (1976). There is one file concerning teaching at City College New York (CUNY).
Writings and notes includes scattered notes and three short stories probably by Alston entitled "Bitsy O'Wire," "Body and Soul," and "Gigi."
Printed materials include illustrations by Alston in the Columbia University literary magazine, The Morningside, and medical illustrations done for Dr. Louis T. Wright. Also found are scattered clippings, exhibition announcements, press releases, and materials from the First Conference on Aesthetic Responsibility.
Photographs are of Alston, Alston with his wife, Myra Logan, his mother Anna Alston Bearden, Romare Bearden, and Hale Woodruff. Photographs of note include one of Alston holding a self-portrait, and one of the artist in 1937 with works that are most likely preliminary sketches of his WPA murals at Harlem Hospital. There are also photographs of Alston's works of art.
Charles Alston lent portions of the collection for microfilming in 1970. Aida Winters and Rousmaniere Alston Wilson, Charles Alston's sisters, donated additional materials to the Archives of American Art in 1982 and 1984.
In 1970, Charles Alston loaned materials for microfilming, including correspondence with Henry Epstein, Langston Hughes, Robert Riggs, Harry Sternberg, J. Johnson Sweeney, Hale Woodruff and others. Also loaned for microfilming were sketchbooks, printed materials, and photographs. Subsequently, some of the photographs were later donated by Alston's sisters. The loaned materials are available only on microfilm reel N70-23 at Archives of American Art offices, and through interlibrary loan. These materials are not included in the container listing of this finding aid.
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.
Additional Charles Henry Alston papers are located at the University of North Carolina's Southern Historical Collection at the Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library.
Funding for the digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art
Upon receipt, the collection was arranged and microfilmed on reels 4222-4223. The collection was reprocessed with a finding aid prepared by Jayna Hanson in 2008. In 2010, the collection was fully digitized with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.