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Artists struggle to portray their community. Learn how Edmonia Lewis, Henry O. Tanner and Laura Wheeler Waring depicted African American life and people in their sculptures and paintings.

Exploring Freedom
Period & Artists
Pre-Civil War
Exploring Freedom
Edmonia Lewis
Henry O. Tanner
Laura Wheeler Waring
The Harlem Renaissance
The Legacy
Social Activism
Modern Identities

Edmonia Lewis
Forever Free (1867)

Related Artists:
Edmonia Lewis
Henry O. Tanner
Laura Wheeler Waring

African American artists of the 19th century, including Lewis, Tanner and Waring sought to present an alternative to the stereotypical images of African Americans common at the time by presenting them as full-fledged participants in American society. These artists were successful in portraying their community during a time when art was still confined to European aesthetics. Most African American artists who could manage the expenses traveled to Europe to study. These artists mastered the European traditions but the era's move toward realism and personal expression allowed African American artists to begin exploring their own identity in their artwork.
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