Charles Henry Alston
Charles graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School in 1925 where he was the art editor of the school’s magazine called The Magpie. A member
of the Arista National Honor Society, Alston
was also a Saturday student at the National Academy of Arts.
After experimenting with the pre-architectural programs and the pre-med program at Columbia University, Charles chose the fine arts program. He was a member of the fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha, which was the intercollegiate Greek letter organization for African Americans. Charles was also a part of Columbia Daily Spectator and Jester, the school’s magazine where he drew cartoons.
After graduating from Columbia University in 1929 with a B.A. in fine arts, Charles further pursued his education at Columbia University Teachers College. He received his master’s degree in 1931.
While Charles was still a student, he became an active member of the Harlem Community. After completing his masters, Charles cofounded the Harlem Art Workshop in 1934. To accommodate more space, the workshop was moved to 306 West 141st Street. This become the center of the creative minds of Harlem.
Alston created illustrations for various magazines including Fortune, Mademoiselle, The New Yorker, Melody Maker and more. He also illustrated album covers for Jazz musicians like Duke Ellington and poetry book covers for poets like Langston Hughes. This work was too commercial and Charles left to pay more attention to his own work.
In 1973, he was made a full professor at the City College of New York where he had taught since 1968. Columbia University, which had once banned him from a drawing course because the models were white, honored him in 1975 with a “Distinguished Alumni Award.”
Charles Alston produced these mockups of cartoons for the Office of War Information during World War II. The finished products were sent to black newspapers for publication.