Selma Hortense Burke was an American sculptor and a member of the Harlem Renaissance movement. Burke is best known for a bas relief portrait of President Franklin D. Roosevelt that may have inspired the profile found on the obverse of the dime.
Selma Burke was born on December 31, 1900, in Mooresville, North Carolina, the seventh of 10 children of Reverend Neil and Mary Elizabeth Colfield Burke. Her father was an AME Church Minister who worked on the railroads for additional income. As a child, she attended a one-room segregated schoolhouse, and often played with the riverbed clay found near her home. She would later describe the feeling of squeezing the clay through her fingers as a first encounter with sculpture, saying “It was there in 1907 that I discovered me.” Burke’s interest in sculpture was encouraged by her maternal grandmother, a painter, although her mother thought she should pursue a more financially stable career.
Selma Burke died at the age of 94 on August 29, 1995 in New Hope, Pennsylvania, where she had lived since the 1950s.