Rayna Andrews and Stephanie Ashley
Scope and Contents
The papers of Los Angeles painter, printmaker, and educator, Charles W. White, measure 12.9 linear feet and date from 1933 to 1987, with the bulk of the material dating from the 1960s to the 1970s. The collection contains biographical material including a sound recording of an interview with White; personal and professional correspondence; writings by White and others about his philosophy of art, his life, and career; professional files documenting White's participation in a variety of boards, committees, juries, symposiums, professional projects, and commissions; teaching files documenting White's tenure at Otis Art Institute; extensive printed material charting White's career from the 1930s until his death; scrapbooks primarily documenting his early career; and a small series of photographs.
Biographical material includes documentation of awards received by White, biographical notes, resumes, White's high school report cards, interview transcripts and a sound recording of an interview, and records related to Elizabeth Catlett from the 1940s.
Correspondence includes scattered letters from family and friends but is primarily professional. White's correspondence was often conducted by Benjamin Horowitz and, occasionally, by Frances White, although some scattered original drafts of letters by White can also be found in this series. The series documents many aspects of White's career including: his relationship with Horowitz and Heritage Gallery as his representative; sales, loans, and exhibitions of White's artwork at many museums, galleries, and art institutions; the publication of his work in journals, magazines, and books, and it's use in the film and music industries; and his relationships with others in the arts and the entertainment industry including Richmond Barthé, Margaret Burroughs, Bing Davis, David Driskell, Lorraine Hansberry, and Harry Belafonte's company, Belafonte Enterprises.
Writings by White include two addresses made to the Annual Conference of Negro Artists, statements on his philosophy of art, and an autobiographical essay. Writings by others include drafts of Benjamin Horowitz's book Images of Dignity:The Drawings of Charles White.
White's professional activities are further documented through records related to the many boards, committees, and exhibition and art contest juries he served on, as well as lectures he delivered, and panels and symposiums he participated in. White's professional files also contain records relating to fellowships he received and document projects such as designs for books, films, and magazines.
White's teaching files primarily relate to Otis Art Institute and contain some records related directly to his work there as well as general faculty and board material. The records document, to some extent, White's role as spokesperson for the faculty and students during the transfer of the Otis charter to Parsons School of Design in 1979. Documentation of White's association with Howard University is minimal and includes letters related to his appointment and resignation in 1978-1979.
Gallery and exhibition files document specific solo and group exhibitions and include records on two visits White made to Germany in 1974 and 1978.
Printed material includes announcements, exhibition catalogs, articles in journals, magazines, and news clippings, and publications with artwork by White that provide extensive coverage of White's career from the 1930s to his death. Also found is printed material collected by White on other artists, and on subjects of interest to him.
Three disbound scrapbooks provide compilations of printed material and occasional letters further documenting White's career. A small series of photographs includes holiday card photos of White, Frances White, and their two children, and photos of White and others taken at a workshop in 1969.
Throughout the collection there are folders containing notes written by Frances White, circa 1980-1981, which provide important contextual information about people, organizations and subjects in the collection, and sometimes highlight the racism White encountered, particularly during his early career. The dates of these notes are not included in folder dates.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Photographs on reel LA7 and material on reel 3099 were lent to the Archives of American Art for microfilming in 1965 and 1982, by Benjamin Horowitz, White's dealer, and by Frances White. Material on reel 2041 was donated by the George Arents Research Library, Syracuse University, 1976, who had originally received it from Horowitz. The remainder of the papers were donated by Charles White, 1975-1978, and after his death by Frances White and Benjamin Horowitz, 1981-1989.
The Archives of American Art also holds microfilm of loaned materials (reels LA7 and 3099). Reel LA7 includes photographs of White, his work, and a career resume. Reel 3099 contains 31 items consisting of three travel diaries kept by Frances White, photographs and a recording of their trip to Russia in 1950, and 11 record album covers designed by Charles White. Loaned materials were returned to the lenders after microfilming and are not described in the collection container inventory.
Charles White's "Black Experience Archive," originally received with the papers, was donated to Howard University's Moorland-Springarn Research Center in 1985 at the request of Frances White.
The Archives of American Art also holds the Charles W. and Frances White letters and photographs to Melvin and Lorraine Williamson, the Lucinda H. Gedeon research material on Charles W. White, and an oral history interview with Charles W. White conducted by Betty Hoag, March 9, 1965.
Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Henry Luce Foundation. Funding for the digitization was provided by the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation and the Alice L. Walton Foundation.
The collection was minimally processed and a finding aid prepared by Rayna Andrews in 2019 with funding from the Henry Luce Foundation. The collection was further processed in preparation for digitization by Stephanie Ashley in 2019, and was digitized in 2020-2021 with funding from the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation and the Alice L. Walton Foundation.