Art and Life in America was a Pulitzer Prize winning book, that took a broad, socially conscious in depth look at the history of art in America. Written by Oliver W. Larkin, Art and Life in America was a substantial study, first published in 1949 and subsequently revised and reissued, in 1960 and 1966 as new, revised, and enlarged editions. The book referenced many artists, including Charles White.
This was the 1949 first edition, and the Author's Foreword included the following passages:
"..an introductory survey of the history of architecture, sculpture, painting, and to some degree of the so-called "minor arts" in the United States. It would show how these arts have expressed American ways of living and how they have been related to the development of American ideas, particularly the idea of democracy.
... In such a book, the terms "inclusive" and "objective" could only have a relative meaning. As for the former, no survey could discuss more than a few of the thousands of creative men and women who have worked here, nor comment upon more than a fraction of the works of art they have produced. As for the latter, the fair-minded historian will direct his readers to histories and interpretations which contrast with his own; but he will write as a man with his own philosophy of art, nor will he conceal his enthusiasm for those artists who, in his opinion, have most richly contributed to the American experience." [Ellipses in original].
The references to Charles White came in Chapter 32 / Common Cause. Extract as follows:
Thanks also to the Art Projects, the Negro painter found his voice in the thirties. As one watched his effort to rid himself of the picturesque stereotype of the black man, and the notion that Africa had provided him with authentic racial forms, one saw that his form was no different from that of the white artist nor, save in details, his fundamental content. Hale Woodruff's Card Players was scarcely more than a Cubist fantasy, and his strenuous elongations were as brittle as [Thomas Hart] Benton's before he rose to the occasion with his Amistad mural. Aaron Douglas was among those who issued the invitation to the Artists' Congress, but his lunette in the Harlem Y.M.C.A. was scarcely more than a pleasant decoration in cool greens, and the Negroes who danced in his panels were shadow shapes gesticulating behind a gauze curtain under pink or blue lights as they did in the island scene of Porgy and Bess. A harsh insensitivity pervaded the Harlem genre scenes of Motley; Charles White's Fatigue had the glistening lights and brutal voluminosity of [José Clemente] Orozco's screaming child. The Mexican painter's hard abstraction of form and face appeared oin White's portraits of Sojourner Truth and Booker T. Washington in a mural for Hampton Institute, a design whose sweep and strength made the figures of Romare Bearden seem stiffly archaic and willfully primitive (435-436)
The socially conscious dimensions of Larkin's volume were apparent at every turn, including in the placing of the two images on the page opposite the above references to White. The image occupying the upper part of the page was Joseph Hirsch's Politicians (retitled in a later edition as The Senator (1941), which depicted a smug, overly self-assured well dressed white man, substantially wide of girth, holding his lapels, a cigar in his mouth. For good measure, a fawning, crony finds mirth and merriment in the Senator, and reaches to embrace him as some sort of Good Ol' Boy, (a term commonly applied to white men from a multi-generational lineage of wealth, privilege, prestige and entitlement, oftentimes established through nefarious, underhand or sordid means, such as a legacy of exploitation of people, slave ownership, and so on.)
Beneath this image was a reproduction of Jacob Lawerence's emphatic depiction of poverty, the title of which effectively summed up the depiction of solitary Black woman, looking down, somewhat despondently, at an empty table. Most of the People Are Very Poor.