Cultural Heroes

Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller (June 9, 1877 – March 18, 1968) was an African-American artist, notable as the first to make art celebrating Afrocentric themes. A multi-talented artist who created poetry and paintings, she is mainly known as a sculptor who explored her African-American roots. Fuller created emotion-packed work with strong social commentary, and became a forerunner of the Black Renaissance, a movement promoting African-American art. Between 1914 and 1921, Fuller’s work reflected American anxieties over the world at war. She explored the search for peace and the atrocities of war. Fuller created two anti-lynching pieces in response to the increasing violence against blacks in America, one based on the notorious Mary Turner case. She also produced a relief of a boy rising from his knees in the morning sun, hoping to inspire black youth at Atlanta, Georgia’s black Young Men’s Christian Association during these racially tense times. During this period, Fuller created Ethiopia Awakening, a sculpture which symbolized the emergence of a new way of black thinking that anticipated the voices of the Harlem Renaissance. Using an African motif, she sought to awaken blacks to the awareness of anti-colonialism and nationhood. The sculpture was of a woman whose lower half was wrapped like a mummy, with the head of a beautiful African woman wearing an ancient Egyptian queen’s headdress. In Ethiopia Awakening, Fuller looked to share a message of hope in Africa – a world plagued by hunger and war, compared to the prosperity of the Western world. Although Fuller initially resisted W.E.B. DuBois’s idea that she specialize in African American themes in her work, she ultimately did just that. Her perspective of the black American experience led to her strongest, most recognized, and inspired works. Fuller died March 18, 1968, at age 90.

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