Diversity and Social Justice

Edmonia Lewis Center

Edmonia Lewis Center

The Edmonia Lewis Center for Women and Transgender People, named after Mary Edmonia Lewis, is a collective of students, staff, and administrators who strive to transform existing systems of oppression based on sex, gender, race, class, sexuality, age, ability, size, religion, nationality, ethnicity, and language.Edmonia Lewis CenterWe recognize that these systems are interconnected and that our work must be multifaceted. We examine these connections as we create and maintain safe space, initiate and fund programming, and serve as a resource for the Oberlin College community.

We envision a world where all people(s) are able to lead lives in community, where people are held accountable for their actions, and have the resources to lead physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy lives. In addition, we envision a world where we are able to recognize, accept, value, and be respectful of our differences as well as our similarities, recognizing the overlaps, and being allies to each other.

To achieve such a vision, we have identified these values that guide us in our work and hold these guiding principles at the forefront of our actions: anti-sexism, anti-classism, anti-racism, anti-imperialism, anti-heterosexism, and anti-transphobia.

The center is at 76 S. Professor St.

To learn more about the Edmonia Lewis Center, stop by and meet the staff, or send us an e-mail, elc@oberlin.edu.


About Lewis

Mary Edmonia Lewis was a sculptor known for using themes about African American slavery and emancipation. She studied at Oberlin College beginning in 1859, because, at that time, it was one of the few educational institutions in the United States to admit women and African Americans.

While at Oberlin, she was accused of poisoning her two white friends. Oberlin alumnus and lawyer John Mercer Langston represented Lewis at trial, but the case was dropped due to insufficient evidence.  In 1862, she left Oberlin, in part, because of harassment and did not graduate. After briefly working in Boston, Lewis moved to Rome in 1865 to establish her career as a sculptor. There she attained international fame as an artist. One of her famous pieces, The Death of Cleopatra, a life-size sculpture of Italian marble, is on long-term loan to the Allen Memorial Art Museum from the National Museum of American Art. In 2011, the Cleveland Museum of Art acquired her piece Indian Combat, an exceedingly rare, multifigure marble sculpture from the 19h century.

The college established the Edmonia Lewis Center for Women and Transgender People in honor of the renowned 19th-century sculptor of African American and Ojibwe descent, who fought racism, sexism, and the charge of attempted murder.

Read more about Edmonia Lewis.