Inge Ruth Hardison was an African-American female sculptor and artist of the 1930’s. She was known for her unique collection of busts called Negro Giants in History. The busts were meant to give honor to the blacks that were not then depicted in the National Hall of Fame in Washington DC. Inge Hardison was also the only woman among the six artists who formed the Black Academy of Arts and Letters.
Inge Hardison was born in Portsmouth, Virginia sometime around the year 1914. Her family moved to Brooklyn where she finished school. She would first make a stop at Broadway, acting in productions of George Abbot’s “Sweet River” and “Country Wife” opposite Ruth Gordon. She was part of the “What A Life” production that ran for more than a year. Then sculpting as a hobby, Inge Hardison made a sculpture of the “What A Life” cast, which was put on exhibit at the Mansfield Theater. She later studied at Vassar with a concentration in music and creative writing.
In 1963, Inge Hardison began building her Negro Giants in History collection. She started with a bust of Harriet Tubman. The first eight inch sculpture was followed by busts of W.E.B Dubois, Paul Robeson, Dr. George Washington Carver and Frederick Douglass. She developed a 35-inch bronze sculpture of Jackie Robinson, which was stationed at the Jackie Robinson Play center in Harlem, NY. In 1983 her bronze head of Frederick Douglass was unveiled at the Firestone Library of Princeton University in 1983.
Also a talented artist, In 1990 Hardison’s portrait of Sojouner Truth was presented to Nelson Mandela by New York Governor Cuomo. Her work has been presented to various U.S. and foreign dignitaries.
Other notables she depicted were Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman. They have been auctioned for more than $1300 per sculpture.