Augusta Savage: The Shape of a Sculptor's Life

Augusta Savage: The Shape of a Sculptor's Life

by Marilyn Nelson
Augusta Savage: The Shape of a Sculptor's Life

Augusta Savage: The Shape of a Sculptor's Life

by Marilyn Nelson


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This powerful biography in poems​ tells the life of Augusta Savage, the trailblazing artist and pillar of the Harlem Renaissance.

A Claudia Lewis Award Winner for Poetry by the Bank Street College of Education 

A Black Caucus ALA Children & Young Adult Award Winner 
A CCBC Children’s Choice• A CBC Teacher Favorite

Augusta Savage was arguably the most influential American artist of the 1930s. A gifted sculptor, Savage was commissioned to create a portrait bust of W.E.B. Du Bois for the New York Public Library. She flourished during the Harlem Renaissance, and became a teacher to an entire generation of African American artists, including Jacob Lawrence, and would go on to be nationally recognized as one of the featured artists at the 1939 World’s Fair. She was the first-ever recorded Black gallerist. After being denied an artists’ fellowship abroad on the basis of race, Augusta Savage worked to advance equal rights in the arts. And yet popular history has forgotten her name. 
Deftly written and brimming with photographs of Savage’s stunning sculpture, this is an important portrait of an exceptional artist who, despite the limitations she faced, was compelled to forge a life through art and creativity. 
Features an afterword by the curator of the Art & Artifacts Division of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Horn Book •  Kirkus Reviews •  School Library Journal •  Bank Street College
★ "A stunning portrait of artistic genius and Black history in America." —Booklist, starred review
★ "A wonderful addition to young people’s literature on African American artists." —Horn Book, starred review
★ "In a rich biography in verse, Nelson (A is for Oboe) gives voice to the Black sculptor Augusta Savage (1892-1962), a key Harlem Renaissance figure." —Publishers Weekly, starred review
★ "Nelson’s arresting poetry, which is accompanied by photographs of Savage’s work, dazzles as it experiments with form. … A lyrical biography from a master of the craft." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
★ "A master poet breathes life and color into this portrait of a historically significant sculptor and her remarkable story." —School Library Journal, starred review

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316298025
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date: 01/25/2022
Pages: 128
Sales rank: 635,246
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.40(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Marilyn Nelson is the author of many award-winning books, including August Savage, which was named to Kirkus, School Library Journal, and The Horn Book’s Best of Year lists in addition to receiving a Black Caucus ALA Honor and the Bank Street College of Education’s Claudia Lewis Award for Poetry. She is also the author of Carver: A Life in Poems, which was a National Book Award finalist, a Newbery Honor Book, and a Coretta Scott King Honor Book, and A Wreath for Emmett Till, which garnered a Coretta Scott King Honor, a Printz Honor, and a Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award Honor. Marilyn lives in Connecticut.

Tammi Lawson is the curator of the Art and Artifacts Division at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and the steward of a collection of over fifteen thousand items that visually document the Black Diaspora. The Schomburg also houses the largest collection of art by Augusta Savage in a public institution. The New York Public Library recently awarded Lawson the 2020 Bertha Franklin Feder Award for Excellence in Librarianship.

Table of Contents

Section I 1892-1930

Leap-Year Baby 1

First Duckling 2

Fifth Duckling 3

Birth Order 5

The Figure of a Frog 6

Wildfire 8

Fingers Remember 10

No Clay 11

Strut, Miss Savage 12

Making 14

Hot Dog 15

Halo 16

Forgive Me, Baby 18

The Du Bois Commission 19

Harlem, Africa 22

Marcus Garvey Sits for a Bust 24

Negress Denied Entry 26

Hitting Bottom 28

Gallery Opening 30

The Rome Fellowship 35

Gamin 36

Section II 1931-1940

Parlaying le Français 41

Studio 43

Bust of Aleksandr Pushkin 44

Hot Pursuit 46

Leonore 48

Boy with Rabbit 50

Harlem Community Art Center 52

The Harp 54

Opening of the Salon of Contemporary Negro Arts 57

Realization 58

Bust of James Weldon Johnson 60

Head of John Henry 62

Up Down Up 64

After the Glory 67

Salon 68

Section III 1941-1962

The Pugilist 72

The Return of the Genius Author 74

Head of Minerva 77

No Forwarding Address 78

Bust of Steven "Barry" Baran 81

Chicken-Foot Soup 82

Girl with Braid 84

Final Commission 85

Juneteenth Barbecue 88

I Don't Know 90

Crows 92

Bird Feeder 93

Awake 94

A Gift to Be 95

Bas Relief of a Female Dancer 96

Afterword 101

Acknowledgments 111

Photography Credits 112

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