Born in Washington, D.C. in 1915, Elizabeth Catlett was firmly rooted in a scholarly and artistic tradition. Her father, who died when Catlett was young, was a respected mathematics professor at Tuskegee Institute, where Booker T. Washington and George Carver taught years earlier. Having been denied admission to the Carnegie Institute because she was African American, Catlett attended Howard University and later earned a Master of Fine Art degree at the University of Iowa. There she studied sculpture under Grant Wood, a leading regionalist painter best known for his work American Gothic. Her graduate thesis – a sculpture of a black mother and child – received first prize in the African American Exposition held in Chicago in 1940.
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