She Used Sculpture To Uplift Her People

The Death of Cleopatra sculpture
Shonda Buchanan
December 20, 2020

As soon as she saw the police were there to arrest her, Edmonia “Wildfire” Lewis became utterly calm. Her white roommates had planned this – accusing her of trying to poison them

How could she prove her innocence? What happened next was a travesty.

Before her trial, a mob of angry whites beat her bloody and left her to die! The only Black student at Oberlin College, she was a target – and white cruelty wasn’t going to wait for the trial. 

Luckily, she survived.

Lewis knew she had to maintain self-respect in the courtroom as the all-white jury’s accusing eyes condemned her. If found guilty, she may never sculpt again!

Upon her acquittal, she felt vindicated – happy that she’d maintained her pride in the face of this discrimination. But it wasn’t over.

Later, she was accused of stealing art supplies from the college, and eventually was prevented from graduating! Was this the end of her art career? Should she quit? 

No! These cruel, racist acts and unfair treatment only fueled her determination to create art that inspired her people! She became one of the first internationally-renowned Black artists.

Smart, accomplished Black women are still confronted and persecuted by racists. But if we maintain our self-respect despite their harassment, we can survive their brutality and thrive!


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