Michael Eric Dyson’s Black History Month All Stars

All-Star #4: Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller

Over the last several years in Philadelphia, we have witnessed the erection of the first monument to a Black man in our city, abolitionist Octavius Catto; the first mural to a legal and civic giant, A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr.; a community effort to rename a street from Taney — named for the Supreme Court justice who wrote the Dred Scott decision — for Caroline LeCount, Philly’s own Rosa Parks; and a school renamed from racist president Andrew Jackson to former slave-turned-educator Fanny Coppin Jackson.

Like these people, to me, the All Stars are the everyday folks who are doing the heavy lifting for their race and culture: Teachers, sanitation workers, people who work the traffic lights and run nurseries — both for kids and for your grass — the people who are clerks in local stores. They are the preachers who reach masses of people on a daily basis; the writers whose praises don’t get as well-sung as they should; the social activists who are out there trying to make a better life for us even when we don’t understand what’s at stake.

These are the people Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., referred to as the “ground crew without whose labor and sacrifices the jet flights to freedom could never have left the earth.”


Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller


Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller



Philadelphia-born Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller was a Black artist who specialized in sculpture, first at the Pennsylvania Museum School of Industrial Arts — now the University of the Arts — then in Paris. While in France she met Auguste Rodin, who encouraged her to continue her career and became her mentor. 

Fuller returned to the United States in 1902 and drew on African and African American themes. In 1907, Fuller became the first African American to receive a federal art commission. She was commissioned to create a series of figures which depicted important historical events for African Americans that were displayed at the Jamestown Tercentennial Exposition in Virginia. It included over 100 painted figures.


  • First African American to receive a federal art commission

More on Fuller: BlackPast, Meta Warrick Fuller (1877-1968)

Last word: Rodin described Fuller as “one of the most imaginative Black artists of her generation.”

Reporting by Aly Kerrigan and Ethan Young.

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