Sarah Elizabeth Lewis

Sarah Elizabeth Lewis is Associate Professor at Harvard University in the Department of History of Art and Architecture and the Department of African and African American Studies. 

Her award-winning “Vision & Justice” issue of Aperture magazine received the 2017 Infinity Award for Critical Writing and Research from the International Center of Photography and launched the larger Vision and Justice Project, based on the topic of her core curriculum course at Harvard University. 

In 2019, she became the inaugural recipient of the Freedom Scholar Award, presented by The Association for the Study of African American Life and History. The award honors Lewis for her body of work and its “direct positive impact on the life of African-Americans.” 

Her essays on race, contemporary art, and culture have been published in many journals as well as the New York Times, the New Yorker, Artforum, Art in America and for the Smithsonian, The Museum of Modern Art, and Rizzoli. 

Her forthcoming publications include a book on race, whiteness, and photography (Harvard University Press, 2021), Vision and Justice (Random House), an anthology on the work of Carrie Mae Weems (MIT Press, 2021) and an article on focusing on the groundwork of contemporary arts in the context of Stand Your Ground Laws (Art Journal, Winter 2020). Lewis is also the author of The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery (Simon & Schuster), a story-driven investigation of advantages gleaned from improbable foundations, even failure, in the creative process. The work has been translated into six languages to date. 

A frequent speaker at universities and conferences, her mainstage TED talk, Embrace the Near Win, has received over 2.7 million views. Her scholarship and research have been profiled by outlets including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Her research has received support from the Ford Foundation, the Hutchins Center at Harvard University, and the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition. 

Before joining the faculty at Harvard, she held curatorial positions at The Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Tate Modern, London. She also served as a Critic at Yale University School of Art. She has served on the boards of the Andy Warhol Foundation of the Visual Arts, The Brearley School, and The CUNY Graduate Center and is a current board member of Creative Time and serves on the Yale University Honorary Degree committee. 

She received her bachelor’s degree from Harvard University, an M. Phil from Oxford University, and her Ph.D. from Yale University. 

She lives in New York and Cambridge, MA.

In her own words: “A fuller vision comes from our ability to recognize the fallibility in our current and past forms of sight.”

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