Women In History: Edmonia Lewis

Edmonia Lewis (1844-1907) is hailed as the first professional Native-American and African-American sculptor. She enrolled in Oberlin College and emerged a talented drawer. During her education, she was falsely accused of poisoning two classmates, was captured, and beaten by a mob. After recovering from the attack she escaped to Boston. (The charges against her were dropped) There, she befriended abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison and the sculptor Edward A. Brackett, the latter of whom taught Lewis to sculpt. She later moved to Italy where she joined a community of expatriate American artists. By the end of the 19th century, Lewis was the only black woman who had participated in, and been recognized to any degree, by the American artistic mainstream. Unfortunately the majority of her pieces have been lost, but those remaining are part of the permanent Howard University Gallery of Art and Smithsonian American Art Museum collections. In a time when very few opportunities were available to people of her gender and skin color, she persevered, ensuring her artistry lives on today.


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