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*Eugene E. White was born on this date in 1933. He is a Black artist.
From Ozan, Arkansas, White's roots are where many of his dreams were born. As a young boy he grew up in the church, went rabbit hunting, harvested corn, picked berries and worked in the cotton fields. At school at a very early age, White remembers being labeled as, "odd and different", and recalls the folks around him commenting that, "that boy has got a gift." But during those times there were no classes during those early years of his school days that would be an accompaniment for the talent that he exhibited.
Yet it was in the 8th grade where he began a course in agriculture, which he felt was indirectly' a beginning for him. During the course he drew the symbol for the N.F.A. (New Farmers of America) picturing an eagle, a plow, and overall a bowl of cotton. As the years passed on and the thoughts of his childhood resurfaced, he says most assuredly that, "the gift" which was mentioned above was and is "creative art."
In the late 1940's Eugene left Arkansas on the back of one of his uncle's old trucks headed for north to the tomato harvest. After working in the tomato harvest in Adrian, Michigan for a short time he and a friend headed to Saginaw where he painted signs there for a while when he could get the work. Soon he received information from home that he had relatives in Detroit where he worked at a clothing store exchange, a dairy and was hired at General Motors (Cadillac) Company.
While strengthening ties with his Detroit family, and bonding with his new friends he was experiencing racism on the job and didn't feel that he could share his feelings where he would be best understood from a Black man's perspective in America. White's inner soul was somewhat shattered because some of his relatives and friends failed to understand why he would jeopardize a "good job" and not go-along with the program set up at Cadillac. He felt that there are times when a man has to take a stand and suffer the consequences of his actions, especially, if that something is what he or she believes they should be doing at that moment in time. Eventually he felt that it was time for him to move on.
White headed west and arrived in San Francisco in 1958. It was in San Francisco that he came to have heightened awareness of his knowledge. This new knowledge enabled him to see his gains and where they were leading. He foresaw that it was no simple task to undergo. After taking ill, White continued drawing while in the hospital in 1963. He drew the nurses who were caring for him.
His family was constantly around him; his dad from Arkansas was at his side every day. He strongly feels through their love and strength, he was able to recuperate from a near death. After his release from the hospital, White began to draw this time as he was in his younger years. His reasons now were to show dignity, strength, beauty and inner feelings of his people and himself.
His first public art show, at the Hall of Rowers, in Golden Gate Park with Bulart, in San Francisco (1964), was an interpretation of his art itself. His show brought a response from the public, a new level of consciousness, a heightened sensitivity aroused by being in the midst of his people. White finding that he did not have an art language verbally, or academically, not having an art language from any institutional concept was awakened to the response from the public.
White was then able to teach himself from the observations and comments directed at his works, he then began to learn from his people. White’s work is on view throughout the city, from portraits on walls of churches and community centers to simple retail signs, but his personal body of work, hundreds of paintings and drawings, has rarely been shown. Maintaining a studio and gallery for over 50 years in San Francisco where he raised his family with his wife Lynnette, White has also written an autobiography, “Jabo’s Boy – Now His Manchild,” published in 2004. An expanded edition is in the works. In 2006, he received the Medallion for the City of Nashville, Arkansas. In 2013, he received a commendation from the San Francisco Appreciation Society.