Resources on Meta Fuller

These are again subdivided into (1) scholarly sources, (2) popular / general-interest sources, and (3) primary sources. This is not a complete list, but longer pieces on Meta Fuller are here. (2) includes sites with images of Fuller’s sculpture, since there is no separate image gallery for her. — Let me know if you see any crucial resources that are missing.

(1) Scholarly Sources

Armstrong, Julie Bucknor. “‘The People… Took Exception to Her Remarks’: Meta Warrick Fuller, Angelina Weld Grimké, and the Lynching of Mary Turner.” The Mississippi Quarterly 61, no. 1/2 (2008): 113–141.

This essay addresses responses to the notorious lynching of Mary Turner in Georgia in May 1918 in literature and in the visual arts, focusing here on Fuller’s Mary Turner and Grimké’s “Goldie” (and briefly, Jean Toomer’s Cane). She is not an art historian and her reading of the sculpture is primarily grounded in her knowledge of sentimental literature (with a rather superficial bit of added context on 19th-century sculpture); in that context, she reads the sculpture as beholden to an “older, more genteel tradition” and thinks that she erases the “defiance” of the real Mary Turner to use her “as a sentimental icon” and a martyr (p. 135) in the tradition of older forms of protesting violence.

Armstrong, Julie Bucknor. Mary Turner and the Memory of Lynching. Athens: Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 2011.

Armstrong’s book deals with the Mary Turner case and the response to it in more historical detail, including the difficulties of uncovering and recovering missing evidence, discusses additional literary works, and also includes a number of the documents and literary texts relating to the case as appendices. It became a key source for the website The Mary Turner Project, where most of these documents can be found on line in the public domain. Chapter 2 is a revised and expanded form of the essay in the Mississippi Quarterly (see above), with Fuller’s work primarily discussed on pp. 70-81, and with an important addition on the Anti-Lynching Crusaders, women activists of the early 1920s.

Ater, Renée. Remaking Race and History: The Sculpture of Meta Warrick Fuller. Berkeley etc.: University of California Press, 2011.

This is the only art-historical book-length study on Fuller. An initial biographical chapter is followed by chapters built around the three public sculpture projects for three different expositions: The Warrick Tableaux, Emancipation, and Ethiopia Awakening. The expositions as cultural context for the works is really crucial and had not been covered in detail like this anywhere until Ater started working on this for her dissertation (see next item). Ater shows convincingly how crucial this social context the connection of Fuller to the NAACP and to other Black activists of the Progressive Era (1910s and 1920s).

Ater, Renée. Race, Gender, and Nation: Rethinking the Sculpture of Meta Warrick Fuller. Ph.D. Thesis. University of Maryland-College Park, 2000.

Ater’s dissertation addresses several areas of Fuller’s work that her later book only touches on–specifically, an early work from 1902 called The Wretched that is still very Rodinesque; her anti-war sculpture from 1917, Peace Halting the Ruthlessness of War, and Mary Turner. The archival work Ater did for this dissertation allowed her to trace the genesis and after-history of certain pieces by Fuller in ways that shift around almost everything that was written about her beforehand (especially in proving that Ethiopia Awakening did not get created until 1921).

Beach, Caitlin. “Meta Warrick Fuller’s Mary Turner and the Memory of Mob Violence.” NKA (Brooklyn, N.Y.) 2015, no. 36 (2015): 16–27.

Beach’s main argument is that Fuller deliberately pushed against the use of graphic material in the antilynching literature of her day (especially in the NAACP’s Crisis), which in effect participated in the silencing and objectifying of lynching victims. Her approach, by contrast, gives agency back to Mary Turner by the dignified way it represented her. This is a very different approach to the question of how to read this work from Armstrong (s.a.).

Brundage, W. Fitzhugh. “Meta Warrick’s 1907 ‘Negro Tableaux’ and (Re)Presenting African American Historical Memory.” The Journal of American History 89, no. 4 (2003): 1368–1400.

Just in case you are interested in the Tableaux, this, alongside Ater’s chapter in her monograph, is the primary source on these lost dioramas, of which only photos survive.

Copeland, Huey. “Making Black Feminist Art Histories.” American Art 31, no.2 (2017), 27-29.

This is a short but thought-provoking response to Ater’s interpretation of Ethiopia and also the importance of discussing and teaching Mary Turner (which is not prominent in her monograph, but was discussed in more detail in her dissertation). Copeland points to the tricky position of female Black artists in creating “protest art” and the ways they have to negotiate between different kinds of pressure.

Driskell, David. “The Flowering of the Harlem Renaissance: The Art of Aaron Douglas, Meta Warrick Fuller, Palmer Hayden, and William H. Johnson.” The Harlem Renaissance: Art of  Black America. Ed. David Driskell, David L. Lewis, Deborah Willlis Ryan. New York: Harry N. Abrams/Studio Museum, 1987. 105-154.

Pp. 105-109 are about Fuller, and the brief account is beholden to Alain Locke’s view of Fuller from 1925. For Driskell, Fuller is a forerunner of the Harlem Renaissance despite the somewhat tenuous connections (duBois only, and no NYC residence) because she picks up African themes early and used them in Ethiopia. He uses Locke’s incorrect date for the sculpture (1914), emphasizes the Pan-African context, and does not discuss the exhibition framework of the commission.

Hammond, Leslie King, and Tritobia Hayes Benjamin. Eds. Three Generations of African American Women Sculptors: A Study in Paradox. Philadelphia: Afro-American Historical and Cultural Museum, 1996.

This is an exhibition catalogue accompanying a traveling exhibition shown in 1996 and 1997 that puts Fuller in the context of earlier sculptural work (including ancestral African sculpture and Edmonia Lewis’ work) and those of the Black female sculptors that came afterward, like Augusta Savage and Elizabeth Catlett (who died in 2012 at almost 100 years old). The chapter on Fuller and May Howard Jackson is short (18-25, consisting mostly of images), but this traveling exhibit was crucial as the first that pulled together these artists across time.

Hoover, Velma J. “Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller: Her Life and Her Art.”  Negro History Bulletin 40, No.2 (March-April 1977), 678-81.

This is a short, opinionated biographical sketch by a personal friend of Fuller’s later years (written by the director of the Multidisciplinary Program for Minorities at the Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller Mental Health Center). Various stories about Fuller’s life go back to this source, including the claim that she said later that she “would have been easily successful if she had been white” but that she did not stress that (680).

Kennedy, Harriet Forte. An Independent Woman: The Life and Art of Meta Warrick Fuller (1877-1968). Framingham, Mass: Danforth Museum of Art, 1984.

This very short exhibition catalog /brochure for a small exhibit of Fuller’s work at the Danforth Museum of Art in December of 1984 is only 12 pages long; it includes a brief bio and a brief overview of her work. Most useful for a detailed list of her work, but many of these are undated, and the principle behind the order in which they are listed is not quite clear to me. Danforth now has a number of the works from the exhibition on permanent display. See the link below.

Kerr, Judith N. God-Given Work: The Life and Times of Sculptor Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller, 1877-1968. Ph.D. Thesis. Amherst: University of Mass., 1987.

The only biography of Meta Warrick Fuller to date.

Leininger-Miller, Theresa. New Negro Painters and Sculptors in Paris: African-American Painters and Sculptors in the City of Light, 1922-1934. New Brunswick, NJ, and London: Rutgers University Press, 2001.

Only Chapter 1 (pp. 1-15) are relevant, because most of the book is about a later generation of artists. This provides a good general context for the African-American artists in Paris in Henry Ossawa Tanner’s circle at the time around 1900 when Fuller was there, but some of the dates about Fuller are slightly off and were corrected in Ater’s book.  Several scholars, among them Emily Burns, are currently working on a more detailed account of the life and work of artists of color in Paris around the turn of the century.

Perkins, Kathy A. “The Genius of Meta Warrick Fuller.” Black American Literature Forum 24, No.1 (Spring 1990), 65-72.

This is about Fuller’s involvement in amateur theater production (writing scripts but also making backdrops and masks), but it is partly based on interviews with people who knew her, and includes the story about Dr. Fuller’s negative attitude toward the studio in the backyard of their house.

(2) Popular / General Sources

“Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller.” Obelisk: A New History of Art. https://arthistoryproject.com/artists/meta-vaux-warrick-fuller/ . 2021.

This is a beautifully designed personal project on various artists by a designer named Reed Enger. The Fuller page is clearly a work in progress. It is a good resource for high-resolution images of works by Fuller that are not available elsewhere, but the caveat is that they are not credited and have no permissions attached. Use with caution.

Mangin, Charlotte (dir.) “Meta Warrick Fuller: Trailblazing African-American Sculptor and Poet.” American Masters. Unladylike2020: The Changemakers. PBS. 2020. https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/she-was-trailblazing-african-american-sculptor-s2wd1i/14031/

An 11-minute digital short film that provides a biography with punchy quotations by Fuller and important contributions from Renée Ater and Allison Saar, a 21sth-century sculptor who created a Harriet Tubman sculpture. Uses interesting visualizations and many photographs of Fuller and of the various exhibitions to provide visual context. Also has a link to a teaching guide with discussion questions and handouts.

Davidson, Benjamin and Pippa Biddle. “The Sculpture of Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller.” Antiques. September / October 2020. 34-40. 

This is a sketch of Fuller’s life and key works beholden to Ater’s book (they do credit her!). But it includes beautiful photographs of works that are not often seen on line, many from the Danforth Museum of Art. They point out that Fuller’s sculptures are still mostly in private hands and often sell for under $ 10,000.  Currently, the issue is available at the Danforth Art Museum website at https://danforth.framingham.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/TMA.SeptOct20-REV.pdf .

The Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller Collection. Danforth Art Museum Website. https://danforth.framingham.edu/exhibition/meta-fuller/

This is the largest unified collection of Fuller’s works, and conveys a good sense of the smaller and less ambitious sculptures she made, but it also includes a painted-plaster maquette of her Ethiopia. The website shows about a dozen of these works and provides a brief overview.

In Memory of Mary Turner: As A Silent Protest Against Mob Violence. Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller. Google Arts & Culture. https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/in-memory-of-mary-turner-as-a-silent-protest-against-mob-violence/6AGtTaPw-CH_Bg

The documentation on this Google Arts and Culture page is very limited, but the high-resolution images provide an opportunity to see the sculpture close up from four different angles. Since the Museum of African American History in Boston and Nantucket does not have a readily available image collection, this is helpful if you cannot visit the museum. The site also has several other images of her sculptures.

Licenziato, Vincent. “Personal Power and Commitment.” The Emancipation Trail. Website. http://vincent-licenziato.squarespace.com/new-page-99

This Bostonian who describes himself as a “Beacon Hill Scholar,” seeking to “research, interpret, and help to preserve the history associated with Beacon Hill’s 19th-century community of free African Americans,” has created a guided tour of the Beacon Hill neighborhood that puts Fuller’s Emancipation (stop # 17 on his virtual itinerary) in the context of the nearby Harriet Tubman Memorial and other public monuments and historical markers in this area.

“Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller.” Notable Alumni. University of the Arts, Philadelphia. https://library.uarts.edu/archives/alumni/warrickfuller.html.

A modest page with the basic dates on Fuller as an alum of the University, the former Pennsylvania Museum School of the Arts, which Fuller attended from 1896-1899. Also includes a resource list.

(3) Primary Sources

Brawley, Benjamin Griffith. The Negro in Literature and Art in the United States. New York: Duffield, 1918. Available at HathiTrust.

Brawley features quite a long chapter (112-124) on Fuller (the only other artist he devotes a chapter to is Henry Ossawa Tanner) that lists many of her works from various exhibitions (including a lot of lost work), based on interviews and letters exchanged with Fuller herself. Brawley, a Black writer and literature professor (at Morehouse College and at Howard University) recycled this material multiple times for slightly different audiences. It appears as a standalone essay in The Southern Workman 47 (January 1918), pp. 25-32, and also as a chapter in Women of Achievement. Written for the The Fireside Schools. Pamphlet for the Woman’s American Baptist Home Mission Series, 1919, pp. 59-69.

Clarke, J.B. A Memento of the Emancipation Proclamation Exposition of the State of New York . New York: R.N. Wood. 1913.

A 23-page pamphlet on the Exposition in November 2013, with a brief discussion of Fuller’s sculpture.

Murray, Freeman Henry Morris. Emancipation and the Freed in American Sculpture: A study in Interpretation. Washington D.C.: Murray Brothers, 1916.  Esp. 51-66. Available at HathiTrust.

See my note about this book in the Edmonia Lewis resource section. Murray devotes ca. 15 pages and two photographs to the sculpture, including quotations from a letter by Fuller that are really useful if intention plays any role in the interpretation. Murray and Fuller were friends and had a correspondence that Renée Ater discusses at length.

The Crisis. 1910-1922. Modernist Journals Project. modjourn.org/journal/crisis

All issues of the NAACP’s magazine The Crisis: A Record of the Darker Races, from November 1910 to December 1922, founded and edited by W.E.B. du Bois, are available through this fantastic digitization project as downloadable PDFs in high resolution with excellent OCR and a great, serviceable search function. This means you can consult the issues that feature the National Emancipation Exposition of 1913, where Fuller’s Emancipation was displayed, including the calendar of events and a script for Du Bois’ pageant (November and December of 2013), as well as the issue where Walter F. White discusses the 1918 lynchings in Georgia that led to Fuller’s creation of her Mary Turner statuette (September 1918, p. 221-223). There are several other issues that discuss Fuller or feature photos of her work. Also, I hope someone has already written a book about the cover art of the Crisis over these 12 years because it is amazingly diverse in terms of style, and at the same time clearly sticks to the idea of popular and attention-grabbing art by, about, and for Black people on the cover.

Meta Fuller Warrick / W.E.B. Du Bois Correspondence. https://credo.library.umass.edu/view/collection/mums31

Archive time! I am a huge fan of good digital archives (I work for one), and the W.E.B du Bois Papers at the digital Credo archive at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst are fantastic! Beautifully digitized PDFs of every letter! Du Bois and Warrick knew each other and occasionally exchanged letters, of which about 2 dozen are preserved here.