III

Narratives of African American Art and Identity

Augusta Savage

Boy on a Stump, 1930s

Bronze

30" x 13" x 13"


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Boy on a Stump

Augusta Savage was a leading proponent for the rights of African American artists and a champion for positive visual representations of African American life and history. Because Eurocentric culture and artistic training were the norm for blacks in the United States, she did not agree with the philosophy (promoted by Howard philosopher Alain Locke) that African American artists should mine only African art for inspiration. Although Savage was primarily interested in the dignified portrayal of African American life, her style, exemplified in her sculpture Boy on a Stump, was distinctly European.

Throughout her career as artist, teacher, and activist Augusta Savage fought valiantly to destroy the political, social, and educational barriers that so often prevented African American artists from realizing their full potential in the United States. Savage fought this battle against racial injustice within her own career as she struggled to acquire the financial support necessary for her to continue her artistic education. She also challenged these barriers through her involvement as a teacher/director for the Savage Studio of Arts and Crafts, located in a basement apartment on West 143rd Street in Harlem, New York.

Savage's Studio, which later evolved into the WPA-funded Harlem Community Art Center, was the largest art center in the nation. As director of the Harlem Community Art Center, Savage soon began to contest the racially biased hiring practices of WPA administrators. Savage's unyielding dedication to the fight for black empowerment within the WPA resulted in the organization of the Harlem Artists Guild in which she served in various leadership capacities.   T. F.

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