Augusta Savage, born Augusta Christine Fells (February 29, 1892 – March 27, 1962) was an African-American sculptor associated with the Harlem Renaissance. She was also a teacher, and her studio was important to the careers of a rising generation of artists who would become nationally known. She worked for equal rights for African Americans in the arts. Savage applied to Cooper Union (Art School) in New York City, where she was admitted in October, 1921. In 1923, she applied for a summer art program sponsored by the French government, but was turned down by the international judging committee because she was black. Savage questioned the committee, beginning the first of many public fights for equal rights in her life. In 1925, she won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Rome, but she couldn’t raise money for travel and living expenses and was therefore unable to attend. In 1929, with public assistance as well from the Julius Rosenwald Fund, Savage enrolled and attended the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, a leading Paris art school. She exhibited and won awards in two Salons and one Exposition.
Savage returned to the United States in 1931, and in 1934 she became the first African-American artist to be elected to the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors. She launched the Savage Studio of Arts and Crafts, located on West 143rd Street in Harlem. Her many young students included future nationally known artists Jacob Lawrence, Norman Lewis, and Gwendolyn Knight. Her school evolved into the Harlem Community Art Center where 1500 people of all ages and abilities participated in her workshops. Funds from the Works Progress Administration helped, but old struggles of discrimination were revived between Savage and WPA officials who objected to her having a leadership role. Savage received a commission from the 1939 New York World's Fair; she created Lift Every Voice and Sing ("The Harp"), a 16-foot plaster sculpture inspired by the song by James Weldon and Rosamond Johnson. Savage did not have funds to have it cast in bronze, or to move and store it. Like other temporary installations, the piece was destroyed at the close of the fair. Savage opened two galleries, whose shows were well attended and reviewed, but few sales resulted, and the galleries closed. In the 1940s Savage moved to a farm in Saugerties (near Woodstock, New York), where she stayed until 1960. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001 as the Augusta Savage House and Studio. Much of her work is in clay or plaster, as she could not often afford bronze. Though her art and influence within the art community is documented, the location of much of her work is unknown. In 1945, Savage retired from the art world. She taught art to children and wrote children's stories before she died in March 1962.