Pieces of Freedom
The Emancipation Sculptures of Edmonia Lewis and Meta Warrick Fuller
A visual narrative of the Black emancipation experience, voiced through the sculptures of two nineteenth-century African American female artists
The history of racism in America is also the history of ordinary Black Americans who accomplished extraordinary things in their pursuit of freedom. Faced with oppression throughout their journey, they built vibrant communities and lived purposeful lives. Pieces of Freedom: The Emancipation Sculptures of Edmonia Lewis and Meta Warrick Fuller brings that history to life by analyzing the first fifty years of Black freedom through the emancipation sculptures of two nineteenth-century African American sculptors, Mary Edmonia Lewis (1844–1909) and Meta Warrick Fuller (1877–1968).
Lewis's and Fuller’s sculptures—and their visual narrative of a people’s strength and humanity in the face of oppression—present a textured historical diorama of Black life during an era of transformative, yet sorrowful, events. In this book, Lee Ann Timreck integrates Lewis's and Fuller’s visual narrative with oral narratives of the newly emancipated, all set within the historical context of Reconstruction, segregation, and Jim Crow. The sculptures also reflect the artists’ gendered perspective of emancipation, conveying a strong narrative on the contributions and sacrifices made by newly freed Black women. These emancipation sculptures provide both a historical narrative of the Black emancipation experience and a moral narrative of America’s failure to create a nation where “all men are created equal.” Pieces of Freedom challenges the twenty-first-century reader to learn and accept this history so we might address our nation’s lingering social and economic injustices.
"Pieces of Freedom weaves an intelligent and critically engaged argument that bridges traditional art history and the narratives of vernacular expression found in African American folklore."- John Fenn III, folklorist