EAST GREENBUSH, N.Y. (NEWS10) — On January 26, the U.S. Postal Service issued a forever stamp to Edmonia Lewis, a famed 19th-century sculptor with ties to the Capital Region. Lewis is known as the first African American and Native American sculptor to achieve international recognition.
Lewis was born in Greenbush, New York in 1844 and throughout her lifetime faced many challenges in a male-dominated field. She moved to Rome, Italy in 1865 to continue her career as a sculptor.
“The setbacks, the discrimination, the violence that was done to her. She was brutally beaten, almost killed,” said East Greenbush Town Historian Bobbie Reno. “But she wouldn’t let anyone deter her from her goals, to what she wanted to be, which was a sculptor. She achieved that and I think there’s inspiration in that.”
Lewis is featured on the Postal Service’s 45th stamp in its Black Heritage Forever Stamp series. Mississippi-based Artist Alex Bostic worked with Art Director Antonio Alcala to create the portrait for the stamp.
“You know she was basically ignored and now to have some part in bringing attention to her and her work – that’s an honor,” said Bostic.
Bostic says there were many reasons why the project was rewarding, especially given the fact that his mother worked for USPS for more than 30 years. He say he plans to wear his mother’s USPS jacket during the ceremony to honor her.
Lewis’ work is on display in museums around the world, but many of her pieces are still believed to be hidden. Reno says she has made calls around the country in an attempt to track down her creations.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) has the largest collection of her work, and a number of her sculptures are on public display in their main building in Washington, D.C. Check out a slideshow of her work on display at SAAM:
On Wednesday, the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art hosted the First Day of Issue ceremony for the Edmonia Lewis Commemorative Forever Stamp. The in-person event was streamed via Facebook Live starting at 12:30 p.m.