Happy Birthday Augusta Savage!

“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

Collection H: Photograph of Augusta Savage (NAID 559182)

Augusta Christine Fells Savage was born on February 29, 1892, in Green Cove Springs, Florida to Cornelia Murphy and Edward Fells. She was a sculptor, art teacher, and strong advocate for emerging artists. As a child, Savage enjoyed making small animals out of red clay dirt, rather than mud pies like other children. She was a natural at sculpting, and had the opportunity to teach her first clay molding class in 1915. Throughout Savage’s career, she established her own art studios and galleries, and taught several young artists. Some of her students included Jacob Lawrence, Gwendolyn Knight, and Kenneth B. Clark. She also was the first Black woman elected to the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors and served as President of the Harlem Artists Guild.

Savage relocated to Harlem in 1921, in the midst of the Harlem Renaissance. She studied art at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, completing the four-year program in three years. After her studies, Savage was commissioned by the New York Public Library to sculpt a bust of W.E.B. Du Bois. She also received other commissions to do busts of Marcus Garvey, James Weldon Johnson, and W.C. Handy. Her artwork has been displayed at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, at the Grand Palais in Paris, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Cleveland Museum of Art. A select few of her most notable sculptures are “Lift Every Voice and Sing, or the Harp”, “Gamin”, “A Woman of Martinique”, and “Sculptural Interpretation of Negro Music.”

The National Archives hold textual records and photographs related to Augusta Savage and her artwork. RG 79 New York SP Savage, Augusta, House and Studio (NAID 75322723) has the application to have Savage’s personal upstate home and studio added to the National Register of Historic Places. The Harmon Foundation Collection also holds photographs of some of her sculptures in the series Artworks by Negro Artists (NAID 558790).

Additional information about Augusta Savage can be found on the Rediscovering Black History Blog, including “Harmon Foundation Collection: Artwork by Black Artists” by Tina L. Ligon

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