Sojourner Truth

Elizabeth Catlett blended art, social goals

One of Elizabeth Catlett's linotypes could horrify viewers by depicting the aftermath of a lynching, the rope around the victim's neck held taut by the murderers' boots. And in the next room, a statue by Catlett of a mother and child would flood viewers with the memories of a maternal embrace.

Catlett's sculptures and prints became symbols of the civil rights movement while championing the dignity and humanity of ordinary people. At the time of her death Monday at age 96 in her home in Cuernavaca, Mexico, she was widely considered one of the most important African-American artists of the 20th century.

But although the artist spent most of her life south of the border, she...