Elevating Black Her-Stories

February 13,  2024



By Leslie Fields-Cruz

During last year’s fervor over the College Board’s new AP African American Studies course, I sometimes wondered how much of the contested material centered on the achievements, contributions and experiences of Black women. After all, elevating Black her-stories is still a relatively new thing. It is one reason I’m so excited about the Feb. 15 premiere of a new film by Sandy Rattley and Charlotte Mangin. It is about Augusta Savage, a Black woman artist born 33 leap years ago. 

black woman in a white shirt is artist augusta savage holding one of her sculptures
Augusta Savage

An acclaimed Harlem Renaissance sculptor and educator, Savage was born on Feb. 29, 1892. The Cooper Union graduate’s achievements were many. She was a Rosenwald scholar and Carnegie Award winner. She opened the nation’s first art gallery dedicated to showcasing the work of Black artists. And she was the only African American commissioned to create a work of art for the 1939 World’s Fair (“The Harp”). Rattley and Mangin’s 22-minute film, Searching for Augusta Savage, investigates why in the decades since her death, evidence of Savage’s spectacular life and legacy appears to have been erased.


sculptor augusta savage working on her 1939 piece titled the harpThe BPM-funded film kicks off American Masters Shorts, a new digital series from PBS’ flagship biography series, American Masters. The film will stream starting this Thursday on the American Masters YouTube channel and other PBS digital platforms. Readers of this blog who live in the New York City metropolitan area are also welcome to attend two, in-person screenings of the film. Both events will be followed by conversations with the filmmakers and informants from the film. 

  • Thurs., Feb. 29, 5 p.m. ET 

Berger Forum 

Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (NY Public Library) 

476 Fifth Avenue

New York, NY 10018 

This event is a collaboration between the filmmakers, the NY Public Library and WNET Group’s Kids’ Media and Education program. In addition to the screening, it will showcase free social studies, history and art curriculum (grades 6-12) that tells Savage’s story and her importance. 

Register Here 


  • Sun., March 3, 2 p.m. ET

The Metropolitan Museum of Art 

1000 Fifth Avenue

New York, NY 10028

Two of Savage’s works are included in the museum’s “The Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism” exhibit. 


Educators looking for free standards-aligned educational resources (grades 6-12) based on the film will find them at PBS LearningMedia.

Elevating the stories of incredible Black people, of all genders, is something Black Public Media has been doing for decades. This leap year, I am honored to be able to inform you of yet another wonderful film about a Black woman whose her-story deserves recognition. I encourage you to include Searching for Augusta Savage in your Black History Month celebration, and I hope you’re having a fabulous Fat Tuesday! 

Laissez le bon temps, roulez!

Savage portrait in pubic domain.
Film key art courtesy of the filmmakers. 

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