A Hidden Figure: Selma Hortense Burke is a renowned sculptor whose work of President Roosevelt you see every day on a dime
The image of former President Franklin D. Roosevelt you see on the common American dime was adapted from a sculpture commissioned by African-American sculptor, Selma Hortense Burke, reporting Atlanta Black Star.
Burke, a renowned artist and educator who founded two art schools during her lifetime, was born in Moorseville, N.C., as one of 10 children to local minister Neal Burke and his wife, Mary Jackson Burke, according to BlackPast.org. Young Selma went on to earn a degree from Winston-Salem State University and graduated as a registered nurse from the St. Agnes School of Nurses in 1924.
Burke worked as a private nurse in New York City for some time, but it was during her brief second marriage to writer Claude McKay that she became involved in the Harlem Renaissance. She worked in Harlem with the Works Progress Administration and Harlem Artists Guild, where she began teaching art appreciation to inner city youths, BlackPast.org reported. Burke’s love of art soon carried her overseas to study and hone her skills as a sculptor under artists Aristide Maillol of Paris and Povolney of Vienna, Austria.
The African-American Registry pointed out that, since the 10-cent coin bears the initials of the engraver, John Sinnock, Burke has never received proper credit for the portrait.
At the age of 80, Burke commissioned her last monumental sculpture, a 9-foot statue of Martin Luther King Jr. on display at Marshall Park in Charlotte, N.C.
Burke died in 1995 at age 94, but her works, many of which are displayed at Winston-Salem University, serve as a reminder of her legacy. Her most notable sculptures include “Temptation” (1938), “Despair” (1951) and “Fallen Angel” (1958) among others.