Edmonia Lewis

Black History Month begins today. Let’s see what we can learn about black women in history over the next 28 days!

Featured in Google’s Doodle today was Edmonia Lewis – seemed appropriate to start off with her since I was so delighted to see this when I opened my browser. Nice one, google!

Today’s Google Doodle, by artist Sophie Diao, salutes Lewis and her great work “The Death of Cleopatra,” which rests today in Washington at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. (Her work “Forever Free” resides nearby, with the Howard University Gallery of Art.) And the ribboned “Google” wording shines bright, befitting Lewis’s nickname.

Source: The Washington Post

There is lots of info about her on the interwebs so feel free to google her. In brief, Edmonia Lewis was an artist and sculptor of Native American and African American descent. She was the first black woman artist to achieve international acclaim and lived for most of her working life in Italy. Unsurprising, given that she was born July 4, 1844 and died September 17, 1907.

You can learn more about her life and her work here.

Black History Month

I’ve heard people exclaim, many times, exasperated, about why there’s a black this or black that. It’s a funny thing how someone can be completely immersed in something and absolutely not see it. So it is with whiteness, frankly. We are surrounded by it so constantly that it seems to be like air, we can’t see it or smell it, it’s just there. Only it’s not air. It doesn’t occur naturally and it’s not vital for life.

What it is vital for is the maintenance of this power structure we live in that favors one group of people over another. In order for blackness to be inferior, whiteness must be superior. The clever part is that it is so ingrained in our every day that we don’t see it unless we look.

So. The reason Black History Month exists, is to bring to light the fact that black people are here too. We have been here. Even if the history books would omit us or mention us only in footnotes or as asides to the seemingly far more compelling stories and achievements of white folks.

Its the same reason that BET and historically black colleges exist – because everything else has centered and prioritized whiteness. Its true that recently more of an effort has been made to include non-white people and cultures but sometimes this effort to include looks more like an effort to erase and assimilate.

There are plenty of other, more qualified people who’ve written more lucid explanations of the purposes and reasons for the movements mentioned above. I exhort you to seek them and read. Learn a little more than what you’ve so far been fed.

Please share any great sources below in the comments so we can all learn a little more.

This coming month, I’ll be posting the name and a short bio with links of women of colour, mostly black, who most people have typically not heard of because they’ve mostly been erased from history. Please feel free to add a name or two yourself!