Samella Lewis (b. 1924)
Samella Lewis was born in New Orleans.She is an artist, an educator, a writer, a filmmaker and a tireless advocate for the advancement of African American art. She studied printmaking with lifelong friends Elizabeth Catlett, Diego Rivera and Jacob Lawrence. Although their imprint is on her style, her work is her own. Realizing the need for a textbook on African American art, Lewis spent the majority of the 1970’s putting together a survey of art by African American artists across the United States and published Art: African American in 1979. This was the first survey book of its kind and it introduced the world to the genre.
Since that time, she has published over a dozen other books and films on the subject. As an educator, Lewis took the fledgling Art Department at Florida Agricultural and Medical University, a Historic Black College and University, and made it one of the top art departments in the South. Lewis’s prints, and life, honor the struggle and dignity of the African American experience. Her linocut entitled Field shows a young woman struggling to break free from the bonds of slavery associated with the agricultural machine of the South, to pull herself into a new life of freedom and expanded possibilities. Collectors of Lewis’s work include Hampton University in Hampton, VA; The Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Baltimore Museum of Fine Arts; and the Getty Center for the History of Art and Humanities in Los Angeles.