Carving a Career in Freedom

Each summer the college and community celebrate Juneteenth and the contributions of such African Americans as Mary Edmonia Lewis, who began her studies at Oberlin College in 1859. It was one of the few educational institutions in the country to admit women and African Americans.

In 1862, Lewis left Oberlin, in part because of harassment and did not graduate. She moved to Rome in 1865 to establish her career as a sculptor. One of her famous pieces, The Death of Cleopatra, is part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The college established the Edmonia Lewis Center for Women and Transgender People in honor of Lewis, who used art to combat racism and sexism.

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Photograph by Branonn Rockwell-Charland ’14