The Harp

Here is the page for The Harp by Augusta Savage. Feel free to play the song that inspired the sculptor as you read about this work of art.

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The Harp was constructed by black female artist and activist Augusta Savage (1892-1962) for the New York World’s Fair in 1939. This self-made sculptor originally called this piece Lift Every Voice and Sing, a homage to the inspirational national Black anthem of the same title by James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938). 

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The physical consolidation of the twelve African American that make up this structure, contribute to a surrounding atmosphere of community and togetherness. To the eye of officials of the World’s Fair, the folds on the robes adorned on the performers, resembled strings on a harp and renamed Savage’s work as so. The exaggerated heights of the singers can be emblematic of metaphorical heights that can be reached following liberation. The work of art was destroyed soon after it was open to the public due to the lack of financial support Savage received to bronze the sixteen-foot tall structure. Following the destruction of The Harp, smaller versions of the piece were constructed and bronzed.

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Themes such as community, liberation, and music highlighted in Augusta Savage’s work can also be found within Beyonce’s embodiment of Lift Every Voice and Sing and Maya Angelou’s words in Caged Bird. Through each artist’s unique ways of execution, each piece sheds light on the significance of the unification of the black collective by tapping into one’s innate desire to belong to a community. The female artists also highlight the importance and historical significance of music. In the years of slavery, black people sang of freedom which was “unknown but longed for still.” 

Lastly, Lift Every Voice and Sing encompasses the importance of acknowledging the grim past in black history while celebrating the milestones that black people have made collectively, a concept prevalent in both The Harp and Caged Bird. Modes of freedom such as community, faith, and music are all discussed within the three works of art, and each piece highlights the importance of these themes within black culture.


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