An unveiling ceremony was held at the Joysetta and Julius Pearse African American Museum in Hempstead on Wednesday to unveil the U.S. Postal Service's 45th stamp in the Black Heritage series. It honors sculptor Edmonia Lewis. Newsday's Steve Langford reports. Credit: Anthony Florio

A new postage stamp commemorating a New York sculptor, whose work reflected her African American and Native American heritage, along with the oppression of Black people, is currently on display in Nassau County.

On Wednesday, officials at the Joysetta and Julius Pearse African American Museum of Nassau County in Hempstead unveiled the U.S. Postal Service stamp of sculptor Edmonia Lewis. The stamp honoring Lewis, who was born in 1844 in upstate Greenbush, will remain on display as part of African American history at the museum, previously called the African American Museum of Nassau County.

Lewis, who died in 1907, developed an interest in making art in college. She had to overcome various obstacles to get into her craft, which included a sculpture called "The Death of Cleopatra."

"A woman who was nearly murdered by white vigilantes, kicked out of her Ohio art school, moved to Italy to escape racism in the United States," said Monet Green, program coordinator at the museum, "a woman of determination, courage, and humility, will finally get her due as an important American artist."

As part of the ceremony, students in attendance watched a brief video of Lewis and her journey to becoming a sculptor. Some of her work is on display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.

Afterward, officials unveiled the stamp replica showing Lewis in a white shirt and black tie with a blue and white background.

On top of the replica, the stamp reads in capital letters "Black Heritage."

"History is history but what’s important about this, this is our history," said James Clark, an assistant superintendent of Hempstead Schools. "And as we celebrate Black history, every day is Black history."

African Americans have been featured on postage stamps since 1940, according to the United States Postal Service website. Booker T. Washington is the first to be honored on a stamp and others included Olympic gold medal sprinter Jesse Owens in 1990 and writer James Baldwin in 2004.

Mathew Oseni, a fifth-grader at Joseph A. McNeil Elementary School in Hempstead, said he learned about Lewis and her work through his older sister.

"I think that she deserves it because of all the things that she’s gone through as an individual," he said of Lewis.

With Anthony Florio

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