I am beginning to take my PowerPoint and information on Augusta Savage back on the road. In March of 2022, I was asked to give a presentation to two English classes at a Chicago area high school. The kids were very responsive, and the teacher ordered some of the books for independent reading when the students said they really wanted to read Graven Images on their own.
Josephine Baker is being honored by the French today (November 30, 2021). She figured prominently in my last book, Graven Images. There will be a parade and a ceremony at the Pantheon. She was a great entertainer in the 1920s through the 1960s and was a spy for the French, enticing Nazi soldiers and then obtaining secrets from them.
She is an American artist, and about 20 of her works of art are displayed now at the Art Institute of Chicago. This is an introduction to the next artist about whom I will write—Otti Berger—who made fabric design into a fine art.
In the last few weeks, there have been several positive things happening in regards to my book about Augusta Savage. Readers made positive comments on Amazon, a book club in Georgia read the book and said they loved it, and a journalist called me wanting to know more about Augusta Savage. It’s nice to know that there is renewed interest in this artist who gave so much but suffered so much too.
When Augusta Savage finished this statue in the late 1930s, the people of Harlem chipped in and had it bronzed for her. Although it was exhibited and admired, no group or individual bought it. In Graven Images, Savage says, “When would I ever learn that sculpting my Negro people would only lead to rejection?” A writer for Time magazine says that in replacing statues of slave owners we should think about not trying to put up historical figures. Rather we may want to “embrace representations of those who have previously been stigmatized or invisible.” Savage’s Realization would be perfect. If anyone knows where the statue went, please leave a comment on my blog.
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.