Samella Sanders Lewis (born February 27, 1924, in New Orleans) is an African-American artist, working primarily as a printmaker and painter. She is also a published author, art historian and a former educator.
Widely exhibited and collected as an artist herself, Lewis is better known as a historian, critic and collector of art, especially African-American art. Lewis has completed four degrees, five films, seven books and a substantial body of artworks which have received critical respect. She pursued an art degree starting off at Dillard University in 1941, but left Dillard for Hampton Institute in Virginia, earning her master's degree in 1947. She earned her B.A. degree at Hampton University, then completed her master and doctorate in art history and cultural anthropology at the Ohio State University in 1951.
Lewis became chair of the Fine Arts Department at Florida A&M University in 1952; she was a professor at the State University of New York and at Scripps College in Claremont, California. She co-founded, with Bernie Casey, the Contemporary Crafts Gallery in Los Angeles in 1970. In 1973, she served on the selection committee for the exhibition BLACKS: USA: 1973 held at the New York Cultural Center.
Lewis is the founder of the International Review of African American Art in 1975. She founded the Museum of African-American Arts in 1986.
In the 1960s–1970s her work reflected humanity and freedom. She produced lithographs, linocuts, and serigraphs.
She is an NAACP member, and a collector of art with her collection including African, Chinese, Asian, South American and other art.
Awards and recognition
- 1962: Fulbright Fellowship to study Asian culture at First Institute of Chinese Civilization and Tung Mai University, Taiwan
- 1964-65: National Defense Education Act postdoctoral fellow at University of Southern California, studying Chinese language and Asian civilization
- 1995: UNICEF Award for the Visual Arts
- 1996-97: Named a Distinguished Scholar by the Getty Center for the History of Art and Humanities
- 1993: Charles White lifetime Achievement Award
- 2003: The History Maker Award
- 2004: Special Day Recognition Award for Outstanding Contributions from the City of New Orleans
- 2005: Alumni Association Award from the Ohio State University
- Lewis, Samella S. African American art and artists (Berkeley : University of California Press, 1990) ISBN 0-520-08788-7; ISBN 9780520087880; ISBN 0-520-08532-9; ISBN 9780520085329 (Worldcat link: )
- Samella S. Lewis; Ruth G. Waddy. Black Artists on Art (Los Angeles, Contemporary Crafts Publishers, 1969) OCLC 48813 (Worldcat link: