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Elma Lewis

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Information about Elma Lewis

Profile image of Elma Lewis

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Theater Chief Executive

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Red
Favorite Food:
Sweets
Favorite Time of Year:
Autumn
Favorite Vacation Spot:
South Africa
Favorite Quote:
For Crying In The Sink

Birthplace

Born:
9/15/1921
Birth Location:
Boston, Massachusetts

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Theater Chief Executive

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Red
Favorite Food:
Sweets
Favorite Time of Year:
Autumn
Favorite Vacation Spot:
South Africa
Favorite Quote:
For Crying In The Sink

Birthplace

Born:
9/15/1921
Birth Location:
Boston
See how Elma Lewis is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Museum chief executive Elma Lewis was born September 15, 1921, in Boston to immigrant parents from the West Indies. Lewis devoted a lifetime to bringing culture into the lives of Boston's African American community. Lewis attended public schools in Boston and went to Emerson College to earn a B.A. in 1943. She received an M.Ed. from Boston University in 1944.

After completing her education, Lewis taught dance, drama and speech therapy, and in 1950 she founded the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts. The school was established to meet the cultural and artistic needs of the African American community in Boston. Lewis developed a comprehensive program teaching dance, drama, art, music and costume design. Twenty-five students enrolled on the first day of school. In 1966, Lewis founded Playhouse in the Park, a summer theater program that featured performers such as Duke Ellington. Two years later, Lewis founded the National Center of Afro-American Artists, an umbrella organization that included the school, jazz and classical orchestras, a chorus, a dance troupe and a museum.

In 1981, Lewis was the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship for her dedicated work in the arts, and in 1983 President Ronald Reagan presented her the Presidential Medal for the Arts. Although the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts closed in 1990, many of Lewis' pupils have gone on to well-established careers in entertainment while others have opened up schools of their own. Lewis continues to be active with the NCAAA and is active with a number of other organizations as well. She is a trustee and life member of PBS station,WGBH, having been involved with it for forty years. She was also an active member of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston for forty years as well as a trustee of the Massachusetts College of Art. Lewis has received more than 400 awards in her lifetime and twenty-eight honorary degrees.

See how Elma Lewis is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Elma Lewis' interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Elma Lewis lists her favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Elma Lewis talks about her family's history and traditions on Barbados
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Elma Lewis talks about her father
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Elma Lewis talks about her mother
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Elma Lewis talks about how her parents met and their involvement in the Universal Negro Improvement Association
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Elma Lewis describes the sights, sounds, and smells of her childhood
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Elma Lewis names the schools she attended in Boston, Massachusetts, pt. 1
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Elma Lewis names the schools she attended in Boston, Massachusetts, pt. 2
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Elma Lewis describes her personality in childhood
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Elma Lewis talks about her childhood interest in oratory
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Elma Lewis describes starting the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts in 1950, pt. 1
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Elma Lewis describes starting the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts in 1950, pt. 2
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Elma Lewis talks about the accomplishments of her colleagues and students, pt. 1
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Elma Lewis talks about the accomplishments of her colleagues and students, pt. 2
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Elma Lewis talks about the uniqueness of the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Elma Lewis talks about the National Center for Afro-American Artists
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Elma Lewis talks about the development of the Elma Lewis Playhouse in the Park in Boston, Massachusetts
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Elma Lewis talks The Museum of the National Center for Afro-American Artists and their annual production of Langston Hughes' "Black Nativity"
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Elma Lewis talks about some of the artists she worked with, including Amiri Baraka and Duke Ellington
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Elma Lewis describes her friendship with HistoryMaker and Minister Louis Farrakhan
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Elma Lewis talks about being invited to travel to Senegal
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Elma Lewis talks about African American leaders who lived in Boston, Massachusetts
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Elma Lewis talks about meeting Paul Robeson and his accomplishments
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Elma Lewis describes the importance of teaching black history to children
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Elma Lewis talks about Danny Glover and Robert Parris Moses
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Elma Lewis talks about HistoryMaker Maya Angelou and the legacy of Paul Laurence Dunbar
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Elma Lewis talks about the personalities of Gwendolyn Brooks and HistoryMakers Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr., and Minister Louis Farrakhan
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Elma Lewis talks about HistoryMaker Reverend Al Sharpton
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Elma Lewis reflects on making the most of her experiences
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Elma Lewis describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Elma Lewis reflects upon her legacy
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Elma Lewis talks about her plans for the future
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Elma Lewis describes how she would like to be remembered
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Elma Lewis reflects on making the most of her gifts in life
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Larry Crowe narrates Elma Lewis' photographs