Artists

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Edmonia Lewis

Mary Edmonia Lewis, "Wildfire" (c. July 4, 1844 – September 17, 1907), was an African American sculptor, of mixed African-American and Native American (Ojibwe) heritage. Born free in Upstate New York, Edmonia was orphaned when young, some sources say at age five, some say at age nine. After her parents died it seems she was taken in by her mother’s family until she was twelve (although her older brother, Sunrise or Samuel W. Lewis claimed he’d taken care of her too). Samuel did finance Edmonia’s education, first in New York, where she was fostered with a Captain Mills and later at Oberlin College in Ohio in 1859.she worked for most of her career in Rome, Italy. She was the first African-American sculptor to achieve national and then international prominence. She began to gain prominence in the United States during the Civil War; at the end of the 19th century, she remained the only Black woman artist who had participated in and been recognized to any extent by the American artistic mainstream. In 2002, the scholar Molefi Kete Asante named Edmonia Lewis on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.Her work is known for incorporating themes relating to Black people and indigenous peoples of the Americas into Neoclassical-style sculpture.