A gifted sculptor, Florida-born Augusta Savage fought poverty, racism and sexism to become a prominent figure in the Harlem Renaissance, the period of African-American cultural outpouring in New York City during the 1920s and ’30s. Her extraordinary talent opened many doors that led to her becoming one of the most influential teachers of her time and a strong voice for civil rights for African-Americans.
Born in Florida in 1892, she was the seventh of fourteen children born to Edward and Cornelia Fells. As a child, Fells exhibited a talent and a passion for sculpting small objects using red clay she found in her neighborhood. The habit often got her into trouble with her father, a part-time minister, who regarded his child’s handiwork as “graven images” outlawed by the Bible’s 10 Commandments.
Pictured here, The Harp, Ms. Savage’s legendary sculpture based on Lift Every Voice and Sing by James Weldon Johnson.
Read more about Augusta on this incredible blog about the history of slavery in the US, and watch a stock footage clip of Ms. Savage working in her studio.