Her Story: Selma Burke

Selma Hortense Burke (1900-1995) was an American sculptor and member of the Harlem Renaissance movement. She created a brass relief of President Franklin D. Roosevelt that is the artwork we see minted on the dime.

Selma Hortense Burke was born on December 31, 1900, in Mooresville, North Carolina. She was one of 10 children. After high school, Burke earned her B.A. at Winston Salem University. She then studied to become a nurse at the St. Agnes Training School for Nurses. She graduated with her credentials in 1924 and began working as a nurse in New York City, New York.

While living in New York, Burke began her career as an artist. She became associated with the Harlem Renaissance and began teaching art appreciation to New York youth. Burke established the Selma Burke School of Sculpture. In 1941, she earned her M.F.A. from Columbia University. 

The following year, she joined the Navy and made history as the first Black woman to enlist in the Navy. While serving, she was commissioned to sculpt a bronze portrait of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Her sculpture now serves as the image of FDR that we currently see on the U.S. dime.

In 1968, Burke established the Selma Burke Art Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where she taught inner-city youth about art history. Burke created works of art from the 1930s until she was in her 80s. She made significant contributions to Black art and helped nurture generations of artists. Every time you look at a U.S. dime remember Selma Burke, She Made History. 

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About The Author


Mother, Photographer, Wisecracker.... not necessarily in that order.

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