Racial Mountains, Renascent Harlem, and Red Clay: the Charles Henry Alston Mural Sketch in the Ackland Art Museum Collection Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
  • Swindell, Catherine
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Art and Art History, Art History
  • This thesis examines a draft mural sketch by Charles Henry Alston (1907-1977), which was accessioned into the Ackland Art Museum in 2009 from the artist’s papers held at the Southern Historical Collection of the Louis Round Wilson Library. The untitled, undated, and unsigned sketch is an intriguing enigma that invites both factual and interpretive scrutiny. This paper, therefore, seeks to address, and where feasible, answer, several foundational questions about the object. Has the artist been correctly identified? Did anyone commission the mural, and if so, who? When was the sketch produced? What does each vignette within the work portray? Beyond understanding the untitled mural sketch as a Great Migration image, I will demonstrate how the work presents visual clues that allow for multiple interpretations informed by Alston’s biography, his stance on African American art, and the African diaspora more broadly.
Date of publication
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Bowles, John
  • Sherman, Daniel
  • Cao, Maggie
  • Master of Arts
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2016

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