Why the new Sojourner Truth statue is built atop the national flower of Ghana

Dollita Okine June 06, 2024
Sojourner Truth. Image via UC Berkeley News - University of California, Berkeley

The site of abolitionist Sojourner Truth’s famous 1851 speech, “Ain’t I a Woman?” is now marked by a plaza and a memorial honoring her legacy. The former slave turned woman rights activist made the address to an audience at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention held at the Universalist Old Stone Church in Akron.

She addressed the audience about why her humanity and the humanity of other enslaved African Americans were not recognized in the same light as white Americans, reflecting on the struggles she had endured while in slavery.

The church has since closed and in its place today stands the Sojourner Truth Legacy Plaza and the United Way of Summit and Medina Counties. The statue, sculpted by artist and Akron native Woodrow Nash, depicts Truth standing tall and clutching a book. The monument is built on top of an impala lily, the national flower of Ghana, from which Truth’s father descended.

“It was an opportunity to embed within the design of the memorial to uplift the overlooked contribution of Black women civic leaders that have sojourned in Truth’s footsteps,” Brent Leggs, senior vice president at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, said, according to ABC News.

The plaza is surrounded by large stone pillars that are carved with phrases like “faith” and “activism” at the top and a passage from Truth beneath it. One of Truth’s quotations on a pillar reads, “I will not allow the darkness around me to determine the light in my life.”

According to Towanda Mullins, chairperson of the Sojourner Truth Project-Akron, the plaza will honor a portion of the country’s history while also helping to build the future. She expressed, “It’s going to remind others to be the first one to speak up, to speak up for all, not just for some.”

According to a press release, the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, with funding from the Knight Foundation, United Way of Summit and Medina, the Sojourner Truth Project-Akron, and the Akron Community Foundation, launched the plaza project.

The trailblazing activist is commemorated in more places than just Akron’s statue and plaza. She was honored in 2020 with the unveiling of a bronze statue that portrayed her alongside women’s rights pioneers Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony at New York’s Central Park. It was the park’s first monument honoring historical heroines According to the city’s website, another statue of Truth was unveiled in Angola, Indiana, in 2021, at the same location where she delivered a speech in 1861.

Truth is believed to be the first Black woman to successfully sue white men to free her son from slavery. Other cases may exist that researchers are unaware of.

Isabella Bomfree, who later became known as Sojourner Truth, was born into slavery in the Hudson Valley in 1797. In 1826, she and her daughter fled her final owner’s home after he failed to keep his promise to liberate her. She went on to work for the Van Wagenens and took their surname.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: June 6, 2024


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