Sculptor Edmonia Lewis is on the next stamp in the Black Heritage series The U.S. Postal Service is making 19th century sculptor Edmonia "Wildfire" Lewis the face of its 45th stamp for the Black Heritage series. The stamp will debut later this month.

Sculptor Edmonia Lewis is on the next stamp in the Black Heritage series

Sculptor Edmonia Lewis is on the next stamp in the Black Heritage series

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1072980506/1072980507" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

The U.S. Postal Service is making 19th century sculptor Edmonia "Wildfire" Lewis the face of its 45th stamp for the Black Heritage series. The stamp will debut later this month.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Inside the Smithsonian Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C., stands a sculpture of polished white stone. "The Death Of Cleopatra" shows the Egyptian queen slumped on her throne. That image of an iconic woman is the work of Edmonia "Wildfire" Lewis, who now gets her own image on a stamp.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

She was from upstate New York, a woman of mixed race with Black and Ojibwe ancestors. Born in the 1840s, when women of color struggled to be heard, she had a talent for publicizing herself. Marilyn Richardson is an art consultant.

MARILYN RICHARDSON: She had an amazing rapport with the press. And so she was very much known and written about, but purely on her own terms.

MARTIN: She often changed the details she gave about her own life.

RICHARDSON: That kind of mysterious figure will certainly grab your attention.

MARTIN: Later, some of her work became obscure, like "The Death Of Cleopatra," which...

RICHARDSON: Was a great mystery until I found it (laughter).

INSKEEP: Now her face appears on a stamp as part of the Postal Service's Black History series. Kirsten Pai Buick is at the University of New Mexico.

KIRSTEN PAI BUICK: We often gang women for being ambitious and seeking fame. But that's what she did. She was ambitious. And she wanted to be famous. And I think this is an acknowledgement that would have thrilled her.

INSKEEP: Edmonia "Wildfire" Lewis remains both well and little-known. To this day, nobody is certain of her birthday. Though, she commonly said she was born on the 4th of July.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROBERT GLASPER'S "CANVAS")

Copyright © 2022 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.