(Photo: Courtesy of Henry Alston)
The multi-talented Charles Henry Alston was introduced to artistic influences at an early age: illustrated love letters his father crafted to court Alston's mother, a competitive desire to recreate his brother's drawings of cars and a stepfather who was an uncle of fellow artist Romare Bearden.
Born on Nov. 28, 1927, in Charlotte, North Carolina, Alston moved to New York City with his family after his widowed mother remarried. Alston was the art editor of his high school's literary magazine and honed his craft at Columbia University, where he majored in fine arts and history. He also earned a master's degree from the university's Teachers College.
As a student, he began to establish a name for himself as an artist and as an important member of the Harlem Renaissance, by illustrating album covers for Duke Ellington and book covers for Langston Hughes.
Alston, whose talents included sculpture, also became a fixture of a more modern art scene. As the Federal Art Project's first African-American project supervisor, he oversaw the team of 35 artists for the creation of the Harlem Hospital Center's murals, two of which he painted.
In addition, Alston was the first African-American to teach at New York's famed Museum of Modern Art and the Art Students League, and he was the first Black to be appointed to the Art Commission of the City of New York.
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