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On this date, we celebrate the birth of Charles Alston in 1907. He was a Black artist and teacher.
Charles Henry Alston was born in Charlotte, N.C. His father died when he was three. Soon after, his mother moved to New York and married Harry P. Bearden (the uncle of artist Romare Bearden). Alston attended DeWitt Clinton High School, taught there, and graduated from Columbia University in 1929. In 1931, he received a master’s degree from Columbia’s Teachers College.
Alston directed art programs and community centers in the New York area, including the Harlem Workshop. Jacob Lawrence was one of his students at Utopia House. He directed the 35 artists who created the Harlem Hospital murals for the Federal Arts Project in 1935 and 1936, painting two of the murals himself. Many of Alston’s works were published in the New Yorker, Fortune, and Collier’s magazines. In 1950, he sold a painting to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and also became the first Black instructor at the Art Students League.
He later taught at the Museum of Modern Art and City College of New York while receiving many awards. Alston’s best-known paintings are "Family" and "Walking" at the Whitney Museum and a private collection, respectively. In 1975, he was the first recipient of Columbia University’s Distinguished Alumni Award.
Charles Alston and his wife, Myra A. Logan (a surgeon), died of cancer within months of each other in 1977.
A History of African American Artists from 1792 to Present
by Romare Bearden & Harry Henderson
Copyright 1993 by Romare Bearden & Harry Henderson
Pantheon Books, NY