Mel Edwards is best known for his sculpture series “Lynch Fragments,” based on the civil rights movement, and for his large-scale public art projects. He once commented that after he had watched steel being welded as a child, he knew he wanted to be a sculptor. After graduating from the University of Southern California in 1965, he had his first solo exhibition at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. He soon began his teaching career, which parallels his career as a sculptor. In 1967 Edwards moved to New York, where he became the first African American sculptor honored with a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, in 1970. His “Lynch Fragments” series comprises small reliefs composed of sharp-edged forms and such objects as chains, locks, and tools—all charged with meaning. The series was born out of his experience of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, but a second phase dealt with the Vietnam War and later works explore African American identity and his travels in Africa.