Edmonia Lewis

Art Education Scholarship

The Attleboro Arts Museum and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Committee of Greater Attleboro have partnered up to provide a new art education scholarship.

Video courtesy of DoubleACS.

A collaboration between:

Ethel Garvin & Mim Fawcett explain the purpose and opportunities provided with new scholarship.

Edmonia Lewis
Art Education

The Attleboro Arts Museum and the MLK Committee of Greater Attleboro are pleased to present

The Reynolds Family & Attleboro Arts Museum Edmonia Lewis Art Education Scholarship.

The scholarship commemorates the life and work of Edmonia Lewis, a 19th-century sculptor who lived in Boston, Massachusetts in the early-to-mid 1860s.


Edmonia Lewis was the first sculptor of African American and Native American descent to achieve international recognition. She is particularly recognized for her naturalism within the neoclassical genre.


Lewis was born around 1842, near Albany, New York. Her father was African American, and her mother was Chippewa (Ojibwa) Indian. She was orphaned at an early age, and grew up in her mother’s tribe.


In 1859, Lewis attended Oberlin College in Ohio, one of the first schools to accept female and black students. She developed an interest in the fine arts, but an accusation of poisoning, believed to be racially motivated, forced Lewis to leave the school before graduating. She traveled to Boston in 1863 and established herself as a professional artist, studying with local neoclassical sculptor Edward Brackett and creating portraits of famous antislavery heroes.


Lewis moved to Rome in 1865, and became involved with a group of American women, sculptors that included Harriet Hosmer, Anne Whitney, and Emma Stebbins. It was there when she began to work in marble. In addition to creating busts, Lewis sculpted biblical scenes and figurative works dealing with her Native American heritage and the oppression of African American people.


Her best known sculptures include:

  1. Forever Free (1867): a black woman and black man celebrating the Emancipation Proclamation,
    a sculpture commemorating the ratification of the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery;

  2. Hagar in the Wilderness (1868): the Egyptian handmaiden of Sarah and Abraham, mother of Ishmael;

  3. The Old Arrow Maker and His Daughter (1872): depicting Native Americans;

  4. The Death of Cleopatra (1875): depicting the Egyptian queen.


Lewis disappeared from public view in the late 1880s. Her last known sculpture was in 1883, and Frederick Douglass met with her in Rome in 1887.


For a long time, no definitive death date was known for Lewis. In 2011, cultural historian Marilyn Richardson uncovered evidence from British records that she was living in the Hammersmith area of London and died in the Hammersmith Borough Infirmary on September 17, 1907.

Edmonia Lewis Portrait
by Annie Kevans
Deadline: January 15

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