Back to Authors List
Edmonia Lewis (1844–1907) was the first African-American woman to become a professional sculptor. Born of Haitian and Native American Chippewa descent in the city of Rensselaer, her mother was a craftswoman who sold souvenirs to tourists, while her father was a gentleman’s servant. Orphaned by the age of nine, she was adopted by her maternal aunts. Her half-brother Samuel went to California and made money in the gold rush and was able to pay for her to have an education. In 1856, Lewis enrolled at McGrawville, a Baptist abolitionist school in New York.