Charles White: A Retrospective

Charles White. _Trenton Six_. 1949. Ink over graphite underdrawing on paperboard. 21 15/16 × 29 7/8" (55.7 × 75.9 cm). Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, TX. © The Charles White Archives

Charles White. Trenton Six. 1949

Charles White. Trenton Six. 1949. Ink over graphite underdrawing on paperboard. 21 15/16 × 29 7/8" (55.7 × 75.9 cm). Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, TX. © The Charles White Archives

ESTHER ADLER: The Trenton Six is named for a famous political case at the time. You had six African-American men who were wrongfully accused and convicted for the murder of an elderly white shopkeeper in New Jersey. And they are sentenced to death. And the sister of one of the men, Bessie Mitchell, decides to protest this wrongful imprisonment on a grand scale. I think this image was in some ways White's part of drawing attention to this case to publicizing it and also of honoring the woman who was at the center of trying to correct it. He has her front and center with this Madonna-like drapery, her hands out and also pointing towards the falsely accused who are behind this grid of barbed wire.

LAURA NEUFELD: I'm Laura Neufeld. I'm an assistant paper conservator at the Museum of Modern Art. Trenton Six really comes alive through his use of hatching and cross-hatching, which is a technique where lines are applied parallel or crossed to each other to create tone. And you see in this composition there's a remarkable amount of control that he uses to create different textures of the men's hair, of the drape of the figures’ clothing. And then you see him shifting and using the mark in a little bit different way in the background where he creates these kind of swirling halos around the figures heads to make them really pop out. You just see the intense labor that goes into creating a drawing like this.

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