Small bronze model of a larger sculpture called Lift Every Voice and Sing (Harp), which features a line of people of various heights standing close together so they resemble a harp.

Augusta Savage (1892–1962)
Maquette of Lift Every Voice and Sing (The Harp) 

Bonded bronze, 1939
Art and Artifacts Division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture



Maquette of Lift Every Voice and Sing (The Harp)

Transcript below

Music: “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by James Weldon Johnson and J. Rosamond Johnson.

Anna Deavere Smith: Imagine this sculpture towering over you, its robed figures standing 16 feet tall. That’s what visitors to the 1939 World’s Fair saw. Artist Augusta Savage created the work to celebrate African American contributions to music. She crafted the massive sculpture from painted plaster because she could not afford bronze.

Savage called her work Lift Every Voice and Sing. Schomburg Curator of Art and Artifacts, Tammi Lawson:

Tammi Lawson: “Lift Every Voice and Sing” is the title of what was then called the “Negro National Anthem.”

And it goes, ”Lift every voice and sing ’til earth and heaven ring, ring with the harmony of liberty.” And it goes on. So it was like a clarion call.

Anna Deavere Smith: Sadly, the original sculpture was destroyed when the Fair ended, along with most of the other temporary structures. Only rare bronze souvenirs like this remain.

But Savage was more interested in her educational legacy than in physical monuments. In the 1930s, she established an art school in Harlem, at the 135th Street branch library—now the home of the Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

Tammi Lawson: Jacob Lawrence is her student. Norman Lewis, a famous abstract artist, is her student.  Charles Alston is one of the teachers. Selma Burke. So it‘s just so many different artists who are prominent now who came through her school.

Anna Deavere Smith: For Savage, that’s what really mattered.

Tammi Lawson: She said: I have created nothing really beautiful, really lasting. But if I can inspire one of these youngsters to develop the talent I know that they possess, then my monument will be their work.

End of Transcript

Tammi Lawson is Curator of the Art & Artifacts Division at the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” written by James Weldon Johnson and J. Rosamond Johnson and performed by Southern Sons, is used courtesy of Document Records.

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