Picture 215
Edmonia Wildfire Lewis

Edmonia Wildfire Lewis was an african american / native american sculptor who rose to fame during the height of the american civil war. She was born to an afro-haitain father, and a mother who was of african and ojibwe decent. Though her parents would die early in her life, they and their heritage would forever influence Lewis’s works. She entered Oberlin College aged just 15, as it was one of the few places of higher educated to admit women of color. After college she traveled to Boston, and it was here she began her career as a sculptor specializing in portrait busts. Her favorite subjects were abolitionists, most notably the commander of a African American Civil War regiment from Massachusetts, Union Colonel Robert Gould Shaw. She eventually became successful enough to send herself to Rome where she honed her neoclassical technique. Her work was met with acclaim, and upon returning to the US, she was commissioned to sculpt the portrait of President Ulysses S. Grant, who marveled at her finished work.