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Charles Wilbert White, Jr. (April 2, 1918 – Oct. 3, 1979); American artist known for his WPA era murals. White's best known work is The Contribution of the Negro to American Democracy, a mural at Hampton University.
White was born to Ethelene Gary, a domestic servant, and Charles White Sr, a railroad and construction worker, on the South Side of Chicago. Due to their poverty, his parents could not afford a babysitter while they worked, so his mother would leave him at the library. This caused a young Charles to develop an affinity towards art and reading at a young age. White's mother bought him an oil paint set when he was 7 years old, which hooked White on art and painting. He also played music as a child, studied modern dance, and was part of theatre groups; however, he stated that art was his true passion.
White's mother brought the young White to the Art Institute of Chicago, where he would read and look at paintings—developing a particular interest in the works of Winslow Homer and George Inness. During the Great Depression, White tried to conceal his art passion in fear of embarrassment; however, this ended when White got a job painting signs at the age 14. Since White had little money growing up, he often painted on whatever surfaces he could find including shirts, cardboard, and window blinds. White later learned how to mix paints by sitting in everyday for a week on an Art Institute of Chicago painting class that was taking place at a park near his home in Chicago. Ethelene re-married after White’s father passed away in 1926. She married a steel mill worker who would become an abusive alcoholic, especially towards a young White, leaving him to escape into art. This is also the same year Ethelene began sending him to Mississippi twice a year to his aunt Hasty Baines and Harriet Baines home, where he would learn about his heritage and Southern tales. This information would heavily influence his art...