Inge Hardison died on March 23 in Manhattan due to Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 102, reports the NY Times. She was best known for her bronze sculptures of immortalized black historical figures, innovators and ordinary people she characterized as “Our Folks.”
Ruth Inge Hardison was born in Portsmouth, Virginia on February 3, 1914. Her family moved to Brooklyn to escape segregation in the South. She graduated from Girls High School and began a brief career on Broadway where she appeared in an all-black production of “Anna Lucasta” and in “The Country Wife” with Ruth Gordon. And it was during the yearlong run of “What a Life,” that Hardison began making clay sculptures for fun.
In the 1960’s, the former actress sculpted a cast-iron collection called “Negro Giants in History,” which included George Washington Carver, W.E.B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson and Harriet Tubman. She is also acknowledged for her series, ‘Ingenious Americans,” which features black inventors.
She has contributed so much to Manhattan, including the bronze bust of Jackie Robinson at the Jackie Robinson Recreation Center in Harlem, the five-foot-high mother and child that she donated to the Mount Sinai Hospital in 1957, the abstract figure title “Jubilee” on the campus of Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, and a mural of 18 children on the side of Intermediate School 74 in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx.
Her work also includes the bust of Frederick Douglass in the reference room of Princeton University’s Firestone Library and a sculpture of Sojouner Truth that was presented to Nelson Mandela by Gov. Mario M. Cuomo of New York.
“By memorializing such great, selfless people,” she once said, “I have been able to put within the experience of many schoolchildren, college students and adults those much-needed models of inspiration, and many of those who read the biographies of these sculptured heroes are encouraged to try to make their own lives more meaningful.”
Hardison was the founding member of the Black Academy of Arts and Letters formed in 1969.
She is survived by her daughter, Yolande Hardison, a grandson and three great-grandchildren.
WANT MORE FROM ESSENCE? Subscribe to our daily newsletter for the latest in hair, beauty, style and celebrity news.