Volume XL, Number 2 of the Georgia Review contained an appreciation of Charles White, who had died about 7 years earlier. Written by John Oliver Killens and titled ‘Charles White: The People’s Artist’, its title was very much a facsimile of an appreciation of White that had appeared in the August 1953 issue of Jewish Life, a publication which billed itself as “A Progressive Monthly”. Spread across two pages, the feature, by artist Hugo Gellert, was titled, simply, uncompromisingly, “CHARLES WHITE, PEOPLE’S ARTIST”.
In 1975 Charles White provided a drawn rendering of the legendary folk hero, John Henry, for the cover of John Oliver Killens' book A Man Ain't Nothing But a Man: The Adventures of John Henry. The book was published by Little, Brown, Boston, 1975, just over a decade before Killens’ appreciation of White appeared in the Georgia Review.
Killens’ text on his friend, White, appeared on pages 449-454 of the Georgia Review (as mentioned, Summer 1986, Vol. 40, No. 2 (Summer 1986)).
His text opened as follows:
CHARLES WILBERT WHITE knew that black was beautiful long before the glorious and turbulent sixties, when so many of us black folks thought that Black Beauty was a horse put together for children in a Hollywood fantasy. Charles seemed always to have known that we blacks were a great people and that we were strong and were survivors. Had he not chosen the pencil and brush, he might have taken to the pulpit. If you were ever engaged in a friendly argument with him, you would know he could preach fire and brimstone. And his sermon always had to do with liberation.
He was a valued friend of mine, one whose work as an artist inspired my own work as a novelist. I always thought he might have made a great writer; he writes in a white heat of anger with his brush and pencil, and every work of art he ever rendered seems to have been taken from the texts of major black prophets such as Frederick Douglass: “If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitations, are men [and I would add women] who want the crops without plowing the ground. They want the rain without the thunder and the lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
There then followed an 18-page gallery of reproductions of White’s work, arranged chronologically. On the Contents page, this section was identified as GRAPHICS. The earliest image was ‘Lovers #1 (The Embrace)’ dating from 1942, the last image was ‘Sound of Silence’ from 1978. Poignantly, it was noted under this final reproduction that “This was the last work that Charles White did.” A photographic portrait of White appeared at the front of the gallery of White images. Acting as a bridge between Killens’ text and the gallery of images was a short, uncredited, biographical outline on white, titled ‘Great Efforts and Long Night Watches: Paintings and Drawings by Charles White (1918 – 1979).
From this brief biographical outline:
“…The same year (1947), in New York City, White had his first one-0man show. Over the next thirty-five years he had countless exhibitions and won numerous awards, not only in the United States but in Germany, France, Russia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Norway.”
On the CONTRIBUTORS pages of the journal, Killens was summarised as "a native of Georgia, has lived in New York City since 1948. his novels include Youngblood, And Then We Heard the Thunder, and A Main Ain't Nothing But a Man; he has also published numerous essays and worked on screenplays. Killens is Writer-in-Residence at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn."
Charles White’s Wanted Poster #6, (1969, Oil wash on board, 59 3/4 x 39 15/16 in/149.3 cm x 68.4 cm.) appeared on the cover of this issue of Georgia Review.