Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Alston

Charles Henry Alston was born on November 28, 1907, in Charlotte, North Carolina. His full name was published in the 1929 Columbia College yearbook the Columbian, and the birth date is from the Social Security Death Index.

In the 1910 U.S. Federal Census, Alston was the youngest of three children born to Primers P. and “Hannah”. The household included a niece, nephew, and mother-in-law. They resided in Charlotte, North Carolina at 416 West Third Street.

About six months after the census enumeration, Alston’s father died on October 18, 1910, according to his North Carolina death certificate which has transcribed at

The North Carolina, Marriage Records recorded the marriage of Alston’s mother, Anna, to Harry P. Bearden on August 21, 1913. Whitney Museum of American Art: Handbook of the Collection (2015) said Alston moved “with his family to Harlem in 1915”.

Bearden signed his World War I draft card on September 12, 1918. His address was 55 West 98th Street in Manhattan, New York City. He was superintendent of service at Bretton Hall.

The same address was recorded in the 1920 census and 1925 New York state census.

African-American Artists, 1929–1945 (2003) said Alston graduated from “DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, where he served as art editor of the school magazine”. Alston continued his education at Columbia University in New York City.

1929 Columbian

The New York Age, December 6, 1930, reported the Arthur Wesley Dow Scholarship was awarded to Alston and added, “His career while an undergraduate of Columbia College is worthy of mention. He was art editor of the school’s humorous monthly, ‘The Jester,’ also art editor of the ‘Varsity,’ the literary organ of the college, and of the Morningside independent magazine of the Heights institution. He received the gold King’s Crown while at Columbia. He is vice-president-elect of Eta Chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. He is specializing in modern art at Columbia.”

According to the 1930 census, Alston was with his family at 1945 Seventh Avenue in Manhattan. His occupation was “boys worker” at Utopia House. African-American Artists said “During this time, he offered free art classes to young people at neighborhood centers, including Utopia House and the Harlem Community Art Center. His now-famous art students included Jacob Lawrence, Robert Blackburn, and Romare Bearden.”

In the 1940 census, Alston lived alone at 306 West 141 Street in Manhattan. The artist was with the WPA Art Project. The New York Age, May 4, 1940, said Alston was one of 68 people, from over 600, to receive a Julius Rosenwald Fund Scholarship.

During World War II Alston enlisted in the army on December 27, 1943.

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Alston drew The Color Guard from January 24, 1943 to September 21, 1944. The series was produced for the Office of War Information (OWI).

The New York Age, April 15, 1944, reported Alston’s marriage.

Prominent Doctor Marries Soldier
Dr. Myra Logan, one of Harlem’s most prominent women doctors, and daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. Warren Logan, of Tuskegee Institute, was married Saturday to Pvt. Charles Henry Alston, son of Mrs. Anna Bearden and the late Rev. Primus Alston, of Raleigh, N. C. Rev. John H. Johnson, rector of St. Martin’s Church, officiated at the informal ceremony in the presence of the immediate families at the home of her sister, Louise Logan.

Dr. Arthur Logan gave his sister in marriage. The bride’s sister, Miss Louise Logan, served as her attendant. Wendall Alston was his brother’s best man.

Dr. Logan who received her degrees from Atlanta University, Columbia University, and New York Medical College, is on the staffs of Harlem Hospital and Cancer Institute.

Pvt. Alston who completed his undergraduate and graduate study of fine arts at Columbia University, has had his paintings on exhibit at the Downtown gallery at the Museum of Modern Art. Prior to joining the army he was on the art staff of the Office of War Information in Washington.

Alston visited Europe. Sailing aboard the S.S. Liberte, Alston arrived in New York City, from Le Havre, France, on July 22, 1953.

Alston’s career as an artist and teacher is detailed here.

Alston passed away April 27, 1977 in New York City. His death was reported the following day in The New York Times.

Further Reading and Viewing
Art in America
Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance
The Johnson Collection
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Slate, Biographical Cartoons of Notable Black Americans, Drawn to Promote Unity During WWII 
Smithsonian, Oral history interview with Charles Henry Alston 
U.S. Air Force, Air Force Art

—Alex Jay

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