Finding the one artist
with a vision bold enough to capture the force of Sojourner Truth's life and message was
not an easy task.
But after a national search by the National Association of Negro
Business and Professional Women (NANBPW) Tina Allen, the internationally renowned sculptor
and painter from Los Angeles, was the obvious choice.
She brings impressive credentials to the commission. Best known for her
larger-than-life representations of black leaders, Allen has sculpted bronze images of
Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, labor leader A. Phillip Randolph and
South African president Nelson Mandela. Her most recent work was a 12-foot statue of
author Alex Haley, dedicated in Knoxville, Tennessee, in April.
Allen grew up in Alabama and the West Indies in an artistically creative family and
began painting at the age of five. Just five years later she was discovered by William
Zorach, one of the world's greatest contemporary sculptors.
She studied at the School of Visual Arts and the Pratt Institute in New York as well as
the University of Venice in Italy. At a young age she won the 1986 New York State Art
Competition, which launched her career as a figurative artist.
A social activist as well as an artist, Allen feels a particular affinity for Sojourner
Truth. Like the 19th century woman, Allen sees herself as a communicator and teacher.
"All my works are narratives. I feel very much like a writer who makes objects and
paintings. I'm interested in the communicative potential of art to heal our souls."
Allen has visited Battle Creek twice in the process of designing the Sojourner Truth
monument. She has worked closely with city officials, members of the Sojourner Truth
Commemoration Committee and the local chapter of the NANBPW in determining the design of
She has also received valuable comments from local residents on how Truth should be
"We know that people want her to be shown as an orator, since she was known as a
speaker," Allen said. "She will have one hand placed on a Bible on top of a
pulpit and the other will be drawn back, compelling one to draw closer and hear what she
has to say."
Allen's work appears in the permanent collections of some of the most important
institutions in the country, including the Schomberg Center and the Pratt Institute in New
York, the King Center in Atlanta, Georgia, and the Museum of Afro-American Art in Los
Angeles. Private collectors as varied as Bill Cosby, Muhammad Ali and Bishop Desmond Tutu
own her work.
Allen hopes the Sojourner Truth monument will become a place where people can gather
and reflect upon Truth's spirit and how the Battle Creek community supported her during
the difficult years throughout the Civil War and Reconstruction.
For Allen, molding her monumental lifelike figures is "writing our
African-American history in bronze" and giving both black and white children positive
role models. "I am not just doing this for you, " she said. "I am doing
this project for me."