Barrier-Breaking Black-Native Sculptor Edmonia Lewis Is on USPS’ New Black Heritage Stamp

Barrier-Breaking Black-Native Sculptor Edmonia Lewis Is on USPS' New Black Heritage Stamp

The United States Postal Service is honoring the contributions of late pioneering sculptor Edmonia Lewis.

On Wednesday, USPS will issue a forever stamp highlighting Lewis’ work as a 19th-century marble sculptor.

In a media advisory, USPS noted that the stamp is a part of the agency’s Black Heritage series.

“The 45th stamp in the Black Heritage series honors Edmonia Lewis, the first African American and Native American sculptor to earn international recognition. The stamp art is a casein-paint portrait based on a photograph of Lewis by Augustus Marshall made in Boston between 1864 and 1871,” USPS officials said in the media advisory, which noted that the stamp will be issued in panes of 20.

“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,” USPS added.

Edmonia Lewis

Edmonia Lewis
Credit: Henry Rocher/National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

Born in 1844 in Greenbush, New York, Lewis took an interest in art at a young age.

“Her father was Black, and her mother was Chippewa (Ojibwa) Indian. Orphaned at an early age, Lewis grew up in her mother’s tribe where her life revolved around fishing, swimming, and making and selling crafts,” the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC. said on her bio page.

As an adult in Boston, Lewis “established herself as a professional artist, studying with a local sculptor and creating portraits of famous antislavery heroes,” the Smithsonian said. “Moving to Rome in 1865, she became involved with a group of American women sculptors and began to work in marble. Sculptors usually hired local workmen to carve their final pieces, but Lewis did all her own stonework out of fear that if she didn’t, her work would not be accepted as original.”

In Italy, “her studio became a must-see attraction for American tourists,” USPS noted.

Lewis died in London in 1907, but her work lives on in museums. The Smithsonian has eight of her famous pieces, including the sculptures “Poor Cupid” and “The Death of Cleopatra.”

You can order the Edmonia Lewis stamp by clicking here.

In a news release, William Gicker, director of Stamp Services at USPS, announced the agency also plans on honoring marine biologist Eugenie Clark, business titan Katharine Graham and others with a series of collective stamps.

“Commemorative stamps are much more than attractive collectibles. They are small emblems of America at its best,” said Gicker, adding USPS is also working on collections for 2023, 2024 and 2025.