Edmonia Lewis, A Little-Known Artist, Is Getting Her Own Postal Stamp

Lewis, a 19th century sculptor, earned international acclaim for her marble sculptures.

Edmonia Lewis, a little-known Black and Native American sculptor during the 19th century, will be honored with a stamp from the U.S. Postal Service.

"As the first African American and Native American sculptor to earn international recognition, Edmonia Lewis challenged social barriers and assumptions about artists in mid-19th century America," the USPS said in a statement announcing the stamp.

Born in 1844 in Greenbush, New York, Lewis attended Oberlin College in Ohio — one of the few schools that admitted Black women at the time. She later moved to Boston where she became a professional artist, apprenticing with a local sculptor while she worked on creating portraits of noted abolitionists. In 1865, Lewis moved to Rome where she began working with marble and sculpted biblical images as well figures and scenes relating to her Native American and Black ancestry.

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One of Lewis' most famous sculptures is The Death of Cleopatra, a 3,000-pound marble sculpture depicting the Egyptian queen after her suicide. Created in 1876, the piece was lost for over a century until it was discovered at a salvage yard in the 1980s. It is now viewable at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.

"The work she produced during her prolific career evokes the complexity of her social identity and reflects the passion and independence of her artistic vision," the USPS said. "As the public continues to discover the beautiful subtleties of Lewis's work, scholars will further interpret her role in American art and the ways she explored, affirmed or de-emphasized her complex cultural identity to meet or expand the artistic expectations of her day."

According to the postal service, Lewis' stamp is based on a photo of her by Augustus Marshall, taken in Boston sometime between 1864 and 1871. It will be the 45th stamp in the Black Heritage series, and it'll be available to purchase on January 26.

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