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John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art 2019, Artists and American Communities, Then: Part 3, Charles White: Feminist at Midcentury

Kellie Jones, professor, department of art history and archaeology, and faculty fellow, Institute for Research in African American Studies (IRAAS), Columbia University. The African American women in Charles White’s artworks possess tremendous physical capability and rich interior lives. These depictions of women contributed to an artistic conversation around feminism between White, Elizabeth Catlett, Gordon Parks, and others from the 1930s through the 1950s. Even writers and activists engaged with White’s work; activist Esther Cooper Jackson published White’s drawings in her journal, Freedom Ways, as if to illustrate her central idea that the state of American democracy could be seen in the living conditions of the black women. In her talk from the John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art, “American Communities, Then and Now,” held on February 8, 2019, Kellie Jones describes how White’s contemporaries helped to shape his work and to provide feminist images of black women in the mid-20th century.