Akron, OH

Summit Suffrage Centennial Committee commissions for Sojourner Truth Statue installation

James Stephens

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The Summit Suffrage Centennial Committee, held by Executive Ilene Shapiro in 2019, has commissioned a bronze statue installation at the site where suffragette and human-rights advocate Sojourner Truth delivered her phenomenal speech about the slave-turned-suffragette. It is known as one of the most important abolitionists and feminist speeches of those times.

Isabella Baumfree, who later changed her name to Sojourner Truth, was born in 1797 in Ulster County, New York. She spent her early years as a slave. As cited in most historical accounts, she had five children with a slave named Thomas. After her master, John Dumont, reversed on a promise to give her freedom in 1826, she took her youngest child, an infant daughter, and ran away.

In 1827, she moved to New York when New York Anti-Slavery Law freed all enslaved people. There she worked for evangelist Elijah Pierson and later preacher Robert Matthews.

She became a "fervent Christian" and accepted a calling to go out and preach against slavery and oppression. This is the turning point that made her changed her name to Sojourner Truth and joined an abolitionist organization in 1843. She became actively involved in an antislavery movement and gave speeches about women's rights and freedom.

In 1851, she traveled around the country with Frederick Douglass, an escaped slave who became a well-known public speaker and promoted a book she had written, "Sojourner Truth's narrative and Book of Life".

In that year, Truth delivered her popular speech famous 'Ain't I a woman' during the Ohio Women's Rights Convention on May 29, 1851, from the steps of the Old Stone Church, which once stood in downtown Akron.

The site now serves as a grassy lot across High Street from the United Way of Summit and Medina Counties, overlooking the Little Cuyahoga River.

According to chair Towanda Mullins, the centennial committee plans a ceremony to unveil the roughly 10-foot-tall statue — created by Akron-native and artist Woodrow Nash — in May 2022.

Aiming to raise $500,000, the centennial committee has received some funds for the statue from area foundations. Mullins also stated that the committee has partnered with the Akron Community Foundation to open fundraising to the public.

To learn more about Sojourner Truth, and the work of the Summit Suffrage Centennial Committee, please visit www.truthstatue.org.

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