Edmonia Lewis

Edmonia Lewis is one of the WOCAA – Women of Color and Accomplishment. WOCAA is a book in progress of my paintings and brief bios of Black women in American history. These are women who have accomplished much despite often facing discrimination or challenging backgrounds.

Edmonia Lewis 1844 – 1907

Lewis was the first professional African-American sculptor. Her brother financed her schooling at Oberlin College. While there, she was accused of poisoning two of her white roommates. She was acquitted of the charge but also severely beaten by white vigilantes. Subsequently accused of stealing art supplies, she was not permitted to graduate from Oberlin.

After minimal training Lewis began producing medallion portraits of well-known abolitionists which helped finance her first trip to Europe in 1865 where she rented a studio in Rome. In addition to creating portrait heads, Lewis sculpted biblical scenes and figural works dealing with her Native American heritage and the oppression of black people.