Elizabeth Catlett lived a long life. At 96, the Howard grad witnessed many of the dramatic changed America has gone through in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Catlett, who said the purpose of her work was to “present black people in their beauty and dignity for ourselves and others to understand and enjoy,” did just that through her lithographs and sculptures. Unlike many African Americans in the 1930s and 1940s who were working to assimilate into American culture, Catlett chose to focus her work on black subjects,  especially black women, creating images of slavery and the struggle for civil rights.

Although she lived most of her life in Mexico and was considered an “undesirable alien” by the U.S. government because of her affiliation with a left-leaning artists collective. Despite her ouster, Catlett is one of the America’s most important artists of the 20th century.

She died on Monday at her home in Cuernavaca, Mexico.

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