James Weldon Johnson’s song, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” was the inspiration for Augusta Savage’s statue for the 1939 World’s Fair. Augusta was given the daunting task of making a sculpture that would highlight the African-American gift of song and music. In my book Graven Images, her friend James asks, “How can you make a song into a sculpture? A song isn’t something you see.”
Well, she could, and here she is in the process of making the sculpture.
The finished project was a harp–16 feet tall. The strings were a line of singing children. The base was a gigantic arm and hand with the fingers curving up, symbolizing God’s hand. A kneeling young man offered a plaque with notes to represent the musical gift of music to the American people. It was the most popular piece of sculpture at the fair.