Birth & Family
Edmonia Lewis Portrait
Edmonia Lewis (Figure 1) was born in July of 1844 to Catherine Mike, an Ojibwa Native American,and JohnMike Lewis, an African American from Haiti  with no surviving records of his name. She was raised with her mothers’ family after being orphaned at age three.
In 1859, at the age of 15, she was sent by her brother to attend Oberlin College. It was after some legal trouble involving two female classmates of Lewis’s that resulted in her having to leave Oberlin College. Upon leaving Oberlin College she went to Boston where she began her career as a sculptor under the tutelage of Edward Brackett.
1. Patricia Cleveland-Peck. “CASTING THE FIRST STONE.” History Today 57, no. 10 (October 2007): 14.
2.Kristen Pai Buick. Child of the Fire: Mary Edmonia Lewis and the Problem of Art History’s Black and Indian Subject (Durham: Duke University Press, 2010): 4.
3. Afro-American Women in Art: Their Achievements in Sculpture and Painting. Greensboro, NC, 1969: 6.
4. Buick, Child of the Fire: Mary Edmonia Lewis and the Problem of Art History’s Black and Indian Subject. 5.
5. Cleveland-Peck, “CASTING THE FIRST STONE.” 15-17. While in attendance at Oberlin Lewis and two friends went out with boys, that night the two girls were found poisoned. Lewis was blamed and arrested for the crime. Prior to her arrest Lewis was brutally attacked by members of the community and left to die. Eventually she was well enough to be arrested and stood trial. She was found not guilty and went back to attend school.