With the stroke of a pen, President George W. Bush signed legislation on Thursday requiring that a statue of Sojourner Truth be erected in to the United States Capitol.
The historic move came after U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, and U.S Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., authored legislation for the creation of the monument to honor the woman who spent much of her life preaching for the abolition of slavery and women’s suffrage
“I am proud that finally a memorial to Sojourner Truth will take its rightful and permanent place in the heart of our representative government, the United States Capitol,” said Clinton, who was surrounded at a press conference in Washington, D.C., by prominent women activists including Dorothy Height, chairwoman of the National Council of Negro Women, and award-winning actress Cicely Tyson.
“For generations to come, visitors to our nation’s capitol will learn about her courage, perseverance and historic contribution in the face of incredible hardship. This is a fitting and long overdue tribute to a woman who deserves to be honored as a true American hero,” Clinton said.
The landmark legislation calls on the Joint Committee on the Library to accept a donation of a bust of Sojourner Truth, no later than two years after the date of the enactment of the bill, to be displayed in a suitable permanent location in the U.S. Capitol Building.
“The recognition by the Congress and the president that Sojourner Truth, one of the nation’s greatest women’s rights leaders, should be honored in the Capitol is both well deserved and long overdue,” said Jackson Lee, who added that the late Dr. C. Delores Tucker, who served as past president of the National Congress of Black Women, was instrumental in initiating the project.
“Her great advocacy on behalf of women, despite all the hardships she faced, makes Sojourner Truth truly deserving of representation along side the other great suffragists whose proud figures are placed in the Capitol,” Jackson Lee said.
Sojourner Truth was born Isabella Baumfree in 1797 in New York’s Hudson Valley. She was a slave until she gained freedom in 1826. She then moved to New York City and by 1843 had changed her name to Sojourner Truth. For much of her adult life she traveled the country preaching for the abolition of slavery and women’s suffrage, ultimately delivering her famous speech, “Ain’t I A Woman,” which was delivered at the 1851 Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio. It has become a classic text on women’s rights. Sojourner Truth died November 26, 1883 in Battle Creek, Mich.
In previous years, she has been inducted into both the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame (1983) and the National Women’s Hall of Fame (1981) in Seneca Falls, N.Y. A United States Postage Stamp was dedicated in her honor at the Sojourner Truth Library in New Paltz, N.Y., on February 5, 1986.
Several books have been written about Sojourner Truth, but Nell Irvin Painter’s Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol is considered one of the most authoritative texts that exists on the former slave.
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