This Day in Black History: March 26, 1962

This Day in Black History: March 26, 1962

This Day in Black History: March 26, 1962

Sculptor and educator Augusta Savage died at age 70 on March 26, 1962.

Published March 26, 2013

(Photo: Public Domain)

Artist, activist and educator Augusta Savage died on March 26, 1962, in New York City, as one of the Harlem Renaissance's greatest influences.

Much to the dismay of her Methodist minister father, Savage, born Augusta Christine Fells in Cove Springs, Florida, on February 29, 1892, began sculpting figures as a child, using the natural clay that was part of her community's infrastructure. When the family later moved to West Palm Beach, she applied some ingenuity and got clay from a local potter. Savage also submitted her work to a local county fair, winning a prize in the process.

In the 1920s, the young artist traveled to New York City to study at Cooper Union. While still a student, she won commissions to sculpt portraits of Black dignitaries, including W.E.B. DuBois and Marcus Garvey. After a portrait of her nephew, titled "Gamin," gained attention, Savage received a scholarship from the Julius Rosenwald Fund that enabled her to travel to Paris to study at the Académie de la Grand Chaumiére from 1930-1931.

Upon her return to the States in 1932, Savage established the Savage Studio of Arts and Crafts and taught in Harlem.

"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," she told Metropolitan Magazine in Jan. 1935.

Savage also helped younger artists like the painter Jacob Lawrence and became the first director of the Harlem Community Art Center in 1937. Two years later, she opened a gallery and also won a commission to create sculptures based on James Weldon Johnson's "Lift Every Voice and Sing," which she submitted in 1939.

Savage, who never became a great financial success, ultimately retreated to upstate New York where she lived until 1962, when she returned to New York City to live with her daughter until she died soon after of cancer at age 70.

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Written by Joyce Jones


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