Nancy Elizabeth Prophet


Nancy Elizabeth Prophet (born Nancy Elizabeth Profitt; March 19, 1890 – December 13, 1960) was an American artist of African-American and Native American ancestry, known for her sculpture. She was the first African-American graduate from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1918 and later studied at L'Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris during the early 1920s. She became noted for her work in Paris in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1934, Prophet began teaching at Spelman College, expanding the curriculum to include modeling and history of art and architecture. Prophet died in 1960 at the age of 70.

Prophet faced many struggles through her lifetime. Prophet had a difficult time financing her work and appealed to various foundations for funding and was often turned down. She also struggled with having her work exhibited and at times using the name Eli Prophet when she entered works into exhibition. Throughout her time in Paris, Prophet was constantly on the brink of starvation. Nevertheless, Prophet retained a strong work ethic passed down from her parents. A perfectionist who did all her own carving, her surviving output is small.

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Born at the turn of the twentieth century, Nancy Elizabeth Prophet was a sculptor who graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1918. Though both were married, Prophet struck up a romantic relationship with W.E.B. Du Bois after she graduated from college. Prophet then traveled to further study in Paris in 1922 where she trained at L'Ecole Nationale des Beaux Arts. During most of her career in Paris, Prophet struggled with poverty and hunger. She returned to the United States in 1934 to teach in Spelman College's art department, though she resented having to leave her Parisian studio. Prophet did not produce much art in her final two decades, and she passed away from a heart attack in 1960.

Country of birth

United States


Artist, sculptor, teacher

ULAN identifier



Nancy Elizabeth Prophet, Nancy E. Prophet

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Information from the Getty Research Institute's Union List of Artist Names ® (ULAN), made available under the ODC Attribution License. Accessed May 11, 2024.