What must surely be one of the most original books on Charles White was Grandpa and the Library: How Charles White Learned to Paint, written by Charles White’s son, C. Ian White. Aimed at younger readers, the book was a decidedly original, inspirational biography on Charles White and was published by the Museum of Modern Art in 2018.
From the flyleaf of the dust jacket:
Every day Charles White goes to the library and looks at the picture books and watches the people around him, Later he draws what he has seen on scraps of paper. Over time he learns to be patient and observant, and by watching art students painting in the park, he learns how to mix and use oil paints.
As he grows up, Charles creates powerful portraits of the figures he sees and admirers – of his family as well as of African American musicians, thinkers, scientists and civil rights leaders. By telling his own stories and those of others, he becomes an artist.
Written and illustrated by his son, C. Ian White, and featuring full-color reproductions of Charles White's own artworks, this deeply personal story traces the childhood influences that inspired young Charles to become an artist and a teacher.
This is a charming piece of literature aimed at juvenile readers, which not only additionally functions as a ‘story time’ book an older person might read to a much younger person – in a nursery or perhaps at bed time – it also functions as a very handy and reliable introduction to the art of Charles White. The narration follows C. Ian White and his son Gordon, as they make a visit to what transpires to be the Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Regional Library, Exposition Park Los Angeles Pubic Library, to look at Charles White’s mural dedicated to the legendary educationalist and, among other achievements and activities, founder of the National Council for Negro Women in 1935. Thereafter, the narration goes back in time, to when Charles White was a young boy and the ways in which the library became a sort of home from home for him, inevitably stimulating his learning, his creativity and his love for the history and advancement of his people.
Towards the end of the book, the Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune mural itself is reproduced as are a number of other images of Charles White’s work, together with archival photographs relating to White’s practice and biography. Several pages earlier, there appears a double page reproduction of White’s Five Great American Negroes, from Howard University Gallery of Art. This is an extraordinary, highly engaging and fascinating book, which is particularly informative about not only the work of Charles White himself, but also wider manifestations of art history and the successes of artists influenced by White, such as David Hammons and Kerry James Marshall.