Augusta Savage

If I can inspire one of these youngsters to develop the talent I know they possess, then my monument will be in their work.

Born Augusta Fells in 1892 in Green Cove Springs, Florida, Augusta Savage was one of the luminaries of the Harlem Renaissance. She was the first black to gain acceptance in the National Association of Painters and Sculptors. She espoused social and political causes and brought about the realization of many opportunities for black artists and the Harlem community at large. She was adored in the Harlem community both as a talented artist and dedicated teacher.

Contrary to her father's wishes, Augusta Savage started modelling clay figures at an early age. As a preacher, he interpreted the concept of graven images literally. When the family moved to West Palm Beach, Savage's love for sculpting intensified, as she was inspired by winning a prize for one of her pieces at a county fair. She decided to become a professional sculptor and moved to Jacksonville. With no opportunities for training and employment in the South she, like many other blacks at the time, migrated north.

In New York, she enrolled in a free art program at Cooper Union while taking in washing to make ends meet. Subsequently, she was selected to participate in a summer program in France but was denied by the French government because of her race. Savage publicized the incident and while the decision was not reversed, she did receive an offer to study with a leading sculptor, Herman Atkins MacNeil.

Savage became recognized as a portrait sculptor and sculpted busts of leading black figures including W.E.B. DuBois and Marcus Garvey. But it was the sculpture of her nephew entitled Gamin that highlighted her unique perception of the black physiognomy. As a prime example of the black aesthetic, Gamin provided Savage with the chance to study in Paris for a year through a Julius Rosenwald Fellowship. | Continued
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Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, Darlene Hine, Elsa Barkley Brown and Rosalyn Terborg-Penn (eds.), Indiana University Press, 1994.
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Book of Black Heroes: Great Women in the Struggle, Toyomi Igus (ed.), Just Us Books, 1991.
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