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The Sojourner Truth Monument:
Building on the Truth

(Source:  Battle Creek Enquirer June 29, 1998)

An inspirational woman — who once sojourned America’s roadways promoting the value of equal rights and humane treatment for all — will soon watch over the highway dedicated to her legacy.

Sojourner Truth already seemed larger than life to Americans of her day as she championed the rights of former slaves, equality for women and humane treatment for the poor. But when her monument is completed in Monument Park in fall 1999, there will be a twice, life-sized figure of the heroine along the Sojourner Truth Downtown Memorial Parkway.

Battle Creek officials are working with the newly formed Sojourner Truth Institute of Battle Creek and several other community organizations to finalize preparations for the monument, which will be located at the intersection of the parkway and Main Street .

The completed bronze sculpture is expected to weigh more than 3,000 pounds and cost approximately $602,000 to develop, sculpt and transport. The cost includes the engineering and construction of a stone base, amphitheater and the landscaping around the monument. An additional $150,000 will be raised to fund educational programs and operational expenses related to the project.

"Battle Creek is the perfect place for such a tribute," said Velma Clay, Sojourner Truth committee chair. "It will remind the world that her body may be buried here but her spirit still sojourns among us in the hearts of those who love freedom, equality and compassion for all people."

Keeping the message of Battle Creek's famous civil rights activist alive remains and integral part of commemoration efforts to build upon last year's 200th anniversary celebration of the birth of Sojourner Truth. She lived the last 26 years of her life — from 1857 to Nov. 26, 1883 — in Battle Creek and is buried in the historic Oak Hill Cemetery. Her life story continues to inspire Michigan residents who honored her in 1983 with induction into the Women's Hall of Fame in Lansing.

Bertha Cheatham, the liaison for the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women national president, Dr. Julianne Malveaux, and representative of the Battle Creek NANBPW Club, said the monument project will be a great tribute to Sojourner Truth's legacy.

"The NANBPW for 63 years has kept the memory of Sojourner Truth alive nationally and internationally," she said. "It has been a five year struggle but were finally seeing the monument project become a reality."

The sculpture is being completed by internationally renowned sculptor, Tina Allen, who recently completed a 12-foot statue of author Alex Haley in Knoxville, Tenn. Allen is very experienced at capturing the spirit of great African and African American leaders and will use her impressive talents to preserve the legacy of Sojourner Truth. Battle Creek city engineer Gregory Zanotti said it has been exciting working with Allen on the monument project over the past year. The monument project will add to the existing downtown sites currently enhancing the city’s image: the newest of which is Kellogg's Cereal City U.S.A.

"It’s estimated that as many as 400,000 people may visit the new facility each year," Zanotti said, "and the first thing they’ll see as they come into the city off the Sojourner Truth Downtown Parkway is the Sojourner Truth statue."

The City of Battle Creek and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation have each contributed $200,000 toward the monument project. Another $102,000 has been received from the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs. The remaining $250,000 will be sought through public funding raising.

"Sojourner Truth's legacy is important to Battle Creek and the nation," said Jack Howell, executive director for Cereal City Development Corporation. "Her convictions and strength left their mark on this country and this community."

"This project is part of an overall effort to highlight history and art in Battle Creek. This includes the construction of Kellogg's Cereal City U.S.A., the Underground Railroad Sculpture and Mill Race Park, all of which embrace Battle Creek's rich heritage, Howell said ."

Establishing a place where people can readily find Truth’s image was one of the desires Truth supporters heard repeatedly from citizens during the bicentennial celebration, according to Michael D. Evans, administrator for the Sojourner Truth Institute of Battle Creek.

"The monument will show the power and majesty of this woman," Evans said. "It is also going to be an important step toward making Battle Creek more widely known as the curator and keeper of Sojourner Truth history."

The project will also be an important part of the ongoing educational programs the Sojourner Truth Institute will maintain to keep alive the interest sparked by the bicentennial celebration.

The Sojourner Truth Institute, Sojourner Truth Commemoration Committee, the NANBPW and the many partners who are working to make this project possible hope the monument will continue to inspire future generations with Truth's example.

Though born into slavery in 1797, Truth freed herself and later made her way to Michigan where she worked with Quaker abolitionists to help free others. She was an important figure of the suffrage movement and continued to speak for equality for all people until her death.

The Sojourner Truth Monument project is a wonderful opportunity for the Battle Creek community and will stand as a lasting tribute to one of this city's greatest citizens.

 

 

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