The Black Woman Artist Who Crafted A Life She Was Told She Couldn’t Have

Savage with her sculpture Realization” in 1938.

Photograph by Andrew Herman. Image courtesy of The New York Public Library/Schomburg Center.

Augusta Savage was commissioned to create work for the 1939 World’s Fair in New York. Her monumental 16-foot sculpture was originally titled Lift Every Voice and Sing, but the Fair’s curators renamed it as The Harp. This sculpture was presented alongside work by Salvador Dali and Willem de Kooning, but unlike her contemporaries in the show, Savage’s legacy is still being uncovered and realized. In this feature by Concepción de León for the New York Times, Savage’s brilliance as a sculptor, arts educator, and community organizer are highlighted despite her many trials from the mainstream art establishment.

“I have created nothing really beautiful, really lasting, but if I can inspire one of these youngsters to develop the talent I know they possess, then my monument will be in their work.” - Augusta Savage