Student, Dillard U., 1941-1943; Bachelor of Science, Hampton Institute, 1945; Master of Arts, Ohio State University, 1947; Doctor of Philosophy, Ohio State University, 1951; postgraduate, University of Southern California, 1964-1966; Doctor of Humane Letters (honorary), Chapman College, 1976; Doctor of Humane Letters (honorary), University Cincinnati, 1993; Doctor of Humane Letters (honorary), Hampton U., 1990; Doctor of Humane Letters (honorary), University Cincinnati, 1993.
Widely exhibited and collected as an artist herself, she is nevertheless perhaps even better known as a historian, critic, and collector of art, especially African-American art Her artistic and wonderful mind showed itself at the early age of four, when she started drawing and painting. She pursued an art degree starting off at Dillard University in 1941, but left Dillard for Hampton Institute in Virginia, earning her master"s degree in 1947.
She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree at Hampton University, then earned her master and doctorate in art history and cultural anthropology at the Ohio State University in 1951.
Later she became chair of fine Arts Department at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in 1952. She was a professor at the State University of New York and at Scripps College in Claremont, California.
She co-founded, with Bernie Casey, the Contemporary Crafts gallery in Los Angeles in 1970. In 1973, she served on the selection committee for the exhibition BLACKS: United States of America: 1973 held at the New York Cultural Center.
She founded the Museum of African-American Arts in 1986.
In the 1960s–1970s her work reflected humanity and freedom. She produced lithographs, linocuts, and serigraphs. She is an National Association for the Advancement of Colored People member, and a collector of art, her collection including African, Chinese, Asian, South American and other art
1962: Fulbright Fellowship to study Asian culture at First Institute of Chinese Civilization and Tung Mai University, Taiwan.
(Book by Lewis, Samella S.)
Member Association Asian Studies, National Conference Artists, Southern California Art History Association, College Art Association American (board directors since 1990).
Married Paul Gad Lewis, December 22, 1948. Children— Alan Stephen, Claude Anthony.