Edmonia Lewis, Hagar, 1875. Carved marble, Smithsonian American Art Museum; Washington, D.C.

Edmonia Lewis was born around 1844 in Greenbush, New York. After briefly attending Oberlin College, where she was influenced by the strong abolitionist movement, she moved to Boston and began carving by the early 1860s. Lewis’ medallions of William Lloyd Garrison, John Brown, and other abolitionist leaders gave her a small measure of commercial success. In 1864 she created her most famous work to date: a bust of Colonel Robert Shaw, a Civil War hero who had died leading the all-black 54th Massachusetts Regiment. With the money she earned selling copies of the bust, she moved to Rome, where she created works with African-American and biblical themes, including this neoclassical carving of a trusting and faithful Hagar.


Opposed to the practice of slavery.

A number of troops stationed in a particular location.

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