In the mid 1970s, Charles White undertook a most demanding, original and dynamic collaboration, with the writer and editor Lerone Bennett, Jr. The Shaping of Black America, Johnson Publishing Company, Chicago, 1975 was a very handsome publication, featuring copious illustrations by Charles White, including the very distinctive cover.
From the flyleaf of the book's jacket:
The Shaping of Black America is, in the author's words, "a historical reconstruction," of the history of black people in the United States, since the famous landing of the 20 blacks at Jamestown in 1619.
This book covers virtually the same ground encompassed in the author's classic Before the Mayflower, published originally in 1962. The difference is in the approach. while Before the Mayflower sticks fairly close to the chronological order in which events transpired, The Shaping of Black America deals with the forces and events which occurred in a developmental way.
The book is divided into two sections, the first dealing with Foundations. These are the chapters on the founding fathers; the white semi-slaves or indentured servants; the relationships between between the blacks and the Indians; and the alternatives which could have been taken by those in power positions, but were not. The second section deals with the Directions which were taken; the System; Labor; and Money, Merchants and Markets.
The book is developed around the body of thought presented in the concept that Bennett first expressed in The Challenge of Blackness (Chicago: Johnson, 1972), p. 39, that "blacks lived in a different time and a different reality in this country."
White provided 11 full page illustrations "rendered in monochromatic oil on boards." Titles included, "The First Generation", "The Black Founding Fathers [Paul Cuffee, Richard Allen]", "The World of the Slave [Harriet Tubman]", and "The Black Worker."
This was a substantial publication, which demonstrated the ways in which White was equal to any task, when it came to illustrating the Black experience, and rendering Black figures from history, with sensitivity, creativity and depth.
A portrait of Bennett and White, discussing their collaboration, adorned the back cover of The Shaping of Black America.
In the wake of Charles White's death, there were a number of celebratory evaluations of his life and work that appeared in print. Not surprisingly, given White's longstanding association with Ebony magazine, there was a special feature on White, reporting on an event that commemorated his recent passing and celebrated his life and work. The feature appeared in Ebony magazine, February 1980, pp. 68-73. One of the feature's five pages was a full page reproduction of 'Jubilee', the piece that had been chosen for the cover of The Shaping of Black America, and was referenced in the title of the Ebony feature, "A Jubilee for Charlie: Stars and friends celebrate life of Charles White." Lerone Bennett Jr. had participated in the commemorative event.