A Finding Aid to the Charles W. and Frances White Letters and Photographs to Melvin and Lorraine Williamson, 1956-1961, in the Archives of American Art

Summary
Collection ID:
AAA.willimel
Creators:
White, Charles, 1918-1979
Williamson, Mel
Dates:
1956-1961
Languages:
English
Physical Description:
0.2 Linear feet
Repository:
The Charles W. and Frances White letters and photographs to Melvin and Lorraine Williamson measure 0.2 linear feet and date from 1956 to 1961. The collection includes twenty-eight letters written by Charles and Frances White to Melvin (Mel) and Lorraine Williamson shortly after their arrival in California. Approximately half of the letters are written by Charles, the other half by Frances, and two letters are written jointly. Most are signed from "Chas & Fran." Also included in the collection are photographs that Charles and Frances sent the Williamsons of their home and Charles' studio, and printed material including clippings and exhibition brochures.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The Charles W. and Frances White letters and photographs to Melvin and Lorraine Williamson measure 0.2 linear feet and date from 1956 to 1961. The collection includes twenty-eight letters written by Charles and Frances White to Melvin (Mel) and Lorraine Williamson shortly after their arrival in California. The letters refer to financial and personal struggles, as well career triumphs and current events. In addition to their shared Chicago background, both the Whites and Williamsons were interracial couples. The letters include references to racial and social dynamics, especially comparing California to New York. Approximately half of the letters are written by Charles, the other half by Frances, and two letters are written jointly. Most are signed from "Chas & Fran."
The collection also contains photographs, negatives, and slides depicting Charles and Frances with friends, their home, and Charles' studio. Many photographs include explanatory notes. Also included are clippings and exhibition brochures for Charles White's 1958 exhibition at ACA Gallery, as well as Anton Refregier's Recent Paintings exhibition.

Arrangement
Arrangement
This collection is arranged as one series.
  • Series 1: Charles W. and Frances White letters and photographs to Melvin and Lorraine Williamson, 1956-1961 (0.2 linear feet; Box 1)

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Painter, printmaker, and educator, Charles W. White (1918-1979) was a prominent figure in the Chicago Black Renaissance and became one of the most celebrated and influential African American artists of the twentieth century. Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, White lived and worked throughout the country, settling in California in 1956. He taught at the Otis Art Institute from 1965 until his death. White's artwork was primarily figurative and depicted African American history, socio-economic struggles, and human relationships.
Charles and Frances Barrett White (1926-2000) married in 1950. They relocated to Los Angeles in 1956. Frances Barrett White was a social worker and educator who spent her early years in New York City. In 1994, she published a book, Reaches of the Heart: A Biography of Charles White.
Melvin Williamson (1923-1995) was an artist, author, and the art director of Viking Press. He attended the Art Institute of Chicago before moving to New York.
Lorraine Rosen Williamson (1926-2018) was an educator and a docent at the Jewish Heritage Museum in New York City.

Administration
Processing Information
The collection was minimally processed and a finding aid prepared by Rayna Andrews in 2019 with funding from the Henry Luce Foundation.
Author
Rayna Andrews
Sponsor
Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Henry Luce Foundation.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The Charles W. and Frances White letters and photographs to Melvin and Lorraine Williamson were donated to the Archives of American Art in 2019 by Lisa Rosenburg, Melvin and Lorraine Williamson's daughter.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
This collection is open for research. Access to original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center.
Conditions Governing Use
The Archives of American Art makes its archival collections available for non-commercial, educational and personal use unless restricted by copyright and/or donor restrictions, including but not limited to access and publication restrictions. AAA makes no representations concerning such rights and restrictions and it is the user's responsibility to determine whether rights or restrictions exist and to obtain any necessary permission to access, use, reproduce and publish the collections. Please refer to the Smithsonian's Terms of Use for additional information.
Preferred Citation
Charles W. and Frances White letters and photographs to Melvin and Lorraine Williamson, 1956-1961. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Related Materials
The Archives of American Art also holds the Charles W. White papers, the Lucinda H. Gedeon research material on Charles White, and an oral history interview with Charles W. White conducted by Betty Hoag, March 9, 1965.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Painters -- California -- Los Angeles Occupation Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Printmakers -- California -- Los Angeles Occupation Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Educators Occupation Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Art directors -- New York (State) -- New York Occupation Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
African American artists Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
African American painters Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Interracial marriage Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
White, Frances Barrett Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Williamson, Lorraine, 1926-2018 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives of American Art
750 9th Street, NW
Victor Building, Suite 2200
Washington, D.C. 20001
https://www.aaa.si.edu/services/questions
https://www.aaa.si.edu/