Sojourner Truth memorialized in Emancipation Hall

Norma Porter | 4/29/2009, 11:53 a.m.

A bust to memorialize African American women€s suffragist and abolitionist Sojourner Truth was unveiled in the Emancipation Hall of the U.S. Capitol on Tues. April 28. Among those in attendance were First Lady Michelle Obama, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Congresswoman Shelia Jackson-Lee (D-Tex.), and National Chair of the National Congress of Black Women (NCBW) Dr. E. Faye Williams.

More than ten years ago, Dr. C. Delores Tucker, co-founder and former chair of the National Congress of Black Women (NCBW), began her effort to have Sojourner Truth memorialized in the Capitol in a portrait monument sculpture along with women suffragists Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton by recruiting then-Senator Clinton and Congresswoman Lee. Both Jackson-Lee and Clinton partnered to introduce the legislation to include Sojourner Truth, but the bill did not pass through Congress because, at that time, honoring an African American woman in the Capitol was not acceptable, according to Williams.

€In 2005, Shelia Jackson Lee and Hillary Clinton reintroduced the bill to give her [Sojourner Truth] her own memorial, which is better,€ Williams said. €We finally have a Congress who is enlightened enough to honor a Black woman [in the Capitol].€

Jackson- Lee said that Tucker€s mission to memorialize Sojourner Truth in the Capitol was €a struggle about the truth and for the truth.€

€Her [Tucker] driving force was that she didn€t want the children of America to come to the United States Capitol and be told an untruth that African American women were not part of the suffragists€ movement,€ Jackson-Lee said.

Obama said that the people who come to visit the Capitol will hear the story of Sojourner Truth, as well as the stories of hardship the other suffragists faced as they fought for the right to vote.

€Now many young boys and girls like my own daughters will come to Emancipation Hall and see the face of a woman that looks like them. All the children who visit the Capitol will hear the story of a woman who endured the greatest of humanity€s indignities,€ Obama said. €They will hear the story of Sojourner Truth, who didn€t allow those indignities to destroy her spirit. She fought for her own freedom then she used her power to help others.€

Several descendants of Sojourner Truth traveled from Atlanta, Ga. to witness the unveiling of the bust.

Cory Mcliechey, a sixth generation grandson of Sojourner Truth, sat with his family members as Obama, Pelosi, Jackson-Lee, and Clinton pulled the curtain off to unveil the statue.

€It€s kind of unbelievable. I am so proud to be a descendant of hers,€ Mcliechey said. €All throughout high school I learned about her through teachers and everyone in my schools knew that I was a descendant of hers, but it really didn€t sink in until today.€

Cory, along with his cousin Ben Mcliechey, established a Stop-the-Violence campaign in Atlanta 20 years ago to continue Sojourner Truth€s legacy.