UPDATE: The winner is…Nancy Brashear!
“I was practically driven to Rome in order to obtain the opportunities for art culture, and to find a social atmosphere where I was not constantly reminded of my color. The land of liberty had no room for a colored sculptor.”
Thus, Edmonia Lewis was quoted in the December 29, 1878, New York Times‘ article: “Seeking Equality Abroad. Why Miss Edmonia Lewis, the Colored Sculptor Returns To Rome – Her Early Life and Struggles.” While saddened by the familiar story of trials and tribulations faced by African Americans in this era, I am nevertheless heartened that Edmonia Lewis refused to let adversity keep her down.
Born on July 4, 1844 of African-American and Native American heritage, Edmonia was orphaned by the age of nine, but had two aunts and her half-brother Samuel to care for her. Samuel struck it rich in the California Gold Rush and was able to finance her education. She attended New York Central College from 1856-1858 then Oberlin College in 1859 where she was one of 30 students of color. A white mob, believing she had poisoned two students, beat her and left her for dead. Exonerated of those charges, she was later accused of stealing paint brushes and a picture frame. Even though cleared again, the college refused to let her re-enroll for her last term in 1863, thwarting her chances to obtain her degree. In 2022, Oberlin awarded her a degree.
She relocated to Boston in 1864, where she received the patronage of abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison. Sculptor Edward Brackett became a mentor and helped her to set up her own studio. She sculpted and sold images of famous abolitionists on medallions made of clay and plaster. Her first real success came from the bust she created of Colonel Robert Shaw, the white officer of the all-black 54th Massachusetts Infantry Civil War unit.
She traveled to Europe and settled in Rome by 1866. While there, she created one of her most famous works, The Death of Cleopatra. It was shipped back to the US and displayed at the Centennial Exhibition in 1876. In 1877 while in Rome, Ulysses S. Grant commissioned his portrait from her. Edmonia remained in Rome where she could work without always having to combat the hostility of being Black and Catholic.
Life in Europe was no paradise, however. Sexism against female sculptors, regardless of race, was rampant. Nevertheless, Edmonia established herself and created pieces that included, but were not limited to, African-American and Native American themes. Her neoclassical style of sculpting fell out of favor in the 1880s, and Edmonia fell into obscurity. She moved to London in 1901 and died there on September 17, 1907. You can learn more about her and see her work on this website: https://edmonialewis.org/
Unfortunately attacks these days on opportunities to enable modern day Edmonia Lewises to emerge make her 1878 NYT quote still relevant. For a chance at a $10 Amazon Gift card, leave a comment on Edmonia’s life or on someone who you know persevered despite discrimination.
“The Spirit to Resist” by Michal Scott from Hot & Sticky: A Passionate Ink Charity Anthology
A woman may be made a fool of if she hasn’t the spirit to resist, but what does she do if, for the first time in her life, being made into a fool is exactly what she wants?
Excerpt from “The Spirit to Resist”
Florence lifted her face into the cool of the night and gazed at the stars. The breeze’s gentleness put her in mind once more of Harold’s sweet entreaty.
It’s just that I’d hoped to show you something different, something pretty special. Just for you.
The remembered words caused her nipples to pucker.
From here she could see the Edwards pavilion. It loomed surprisingly stately, given its frivolous purpose. She remembered her silliness with Harold over that tub of strawberry ice cream. A smile twisted her lips. What different, pretty special something had Harold planned just for her?
In her mind’s eye, she recalled control in that woman’s eyes back at Mrs. Wanzer’s. From memory, she reheard the sounds of pleading in the man’s grunting and groaning. The scene reaffirmed what she always believed. For sex to be satisfying, there had to be an exchange of power. Until she found a partner who believed this, too, she’d be a vanilla until her dying day.
She gazed toward the Edwards pavilion again. A similar exchange happened between her and Harold when she teased him. He enjoyed receiving her taunts as much as she enjoyed delivering them. They shared a mutual respect whenever they spoke, whenever they caught one another’s eye, even when no teasing occurred.
He’d had something planned for her tonight. Something different. Something pretty special. Something just for her. What might that something be? Something that said Harold, like Madison Dugger, respected the power of the cunt?
Maybe it wasn’t too late to find out.