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Elizabeth Catlett

Elizabeth Catlett served as head of the art department at Dillard University in New Orleans, where she is now an honorary citizen.

Elizabeth Catlett

Courtesy of The Art Institute of Chicago Digital Libraries

Sharecropper. Catlett, Elizabeth (Artist)

A Washington, D.C., native, dual Mexican/American citizen, and holder of keys to cities across the nation, art educator, sculptor, and printmaker Elizabeth Catlett was an honorary citizen of New Orleans, where she chaired Dillard University’s art department in 1940. Catlett was beloved for her artistic expression of the uniquely African-American (and particularly female) experience of triumph and struggle. A granddaughter of slaves whose inner circle included Harlem Renaissance luminaries Langston Hughes and Ralph Ellison, and Mexican artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, Catlett renounced her American citizenship in response to a summons to testify before the the House Committee on Un-American Activities during the McCarthy-era “Red Scare.” Catlett became a Mexican citizen upon marrying Mexican artist Francisco “Pancho” Mora in 1948; her American citizenship was restored by the Clinton administration. In 2003 she received the International Sculpture Center’s Lifetime Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award. Her works include a 1975 sculpture of Louis Armstrong in his namesake park in New Orleans’ Treme neighborhood.