In 1909, Norman Lewis was born to Bermudian parents in Harlem, New York, where he spent much of his life. He studied drawing and commercial design at the New York Vocational High School on Seventh Avenue. After two years traveling the world as a seaman, Lewis came back to New York in 1933 and worked at the Savage Studio of Arts and Crafts under the supervision of sculptor Augusta Savage. In 1934, he showed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In the same year, he became a member of the 306 Group, an organization of artists and writers including Romare Bearden, Ralph Ellison, and Jacob Lawrence. Lewis worked to organize artists throughout his career, helping to start SPIRAL, an association of black artists, in 1963, and founding the Cinque Gallery in 1970 with Bearden and Ernest Crichlow. He received grants from the Mark Rothko Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts in 1972, and a Guggenheim fellowship in 1975. He died in 1979.