A Truth that helps set us free
NORTHAMPTON — On Sunday at the First Churches from 2 to 4 p.m., the Sojourner Truth Committee will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Sojourner Truth Statue, completed and dedicated in Northampton Oct. 6, 2002.
At this time a new book will be released titled “Honoring Truth: The Sojourner Statue Story.” The title “Honoring Truth,” can be understood in many ways.
Honoring Truth was the primary goal of the Sojourner Truth Statue Committee.
We wanted to honor this amazing woman who was born into slavery in Hurley, N.Y., around 1797, who at an early age was separated from her mother and father and sold again and again until purchased by two Quakers who set her free and in 1843 came to Northampton to live here in a cooperative utopian community called the Northampton Association for Education and Industry.
There, she met some of the major abolitionists and reformers in our country: Samuel Hill, George Benson, William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglas and David Ruggles.
Truth was a visible community figure for more than a decade, and it was here that she first came to understand the relation between fighting slavery and fighting for women’s rights and became the early pioneer of both movements in America.
For all these reasons we wanted a statue to her, that all of us and our children and children’s children might know who she was and that she was here.
But the title “Honoring Truth” can also be understood in another way.
The building of this statue was not an easy task.
It took the Sojourner Truth Statue 10 years to build, and it was not always easy. This book tells the story of many of the conflicts that were experienced by our committee in trying to promote the idea of a statue for our city.
There were those people who did not want a statue and said that this was not a statue town. There were those who resisted creating a statue to Sojourner Truth for many spoken and unspoken reasons.
And there were conflicts over the way the proposals and the maquettes were vetted; especially when the original selection of 10 sculptors was criticized for being all male, and five female artists were added to the list.
The title “Honoring Truth” is an attempt to speak honestly about all of these conflicts that we experienced as a committee and as a community.
And finally, the title “Honoring Truth” is an effort to recognize and to thank the hundreds and hundreds of people throughout the Pioneer Valley who contributed over the 10 years to the building of this statue of Sojourner Truth.
The truth of the matter is that there was a committee of about 35 dedicated people who met regularly, at least once every month, for 10 years.
But behind the scenes there were hundreds of people in our schools, in our houses of faith, in our businesses and civic organizations, musicians, artists, choirs and choruses, community and public officials, our own mayor, city councilors and state representatives and most of all, thousands and thousands of children who put pennies in jars in stores and public places all across the city.
They gave of their time, and their resources, and their love for this woman who lived in our midst named Sojourner.
Honoring Truth is honoring all of you throughout the Pioneer Valley who made the building of this statue the enormous success it became; a statue deeply appreciated, in the end, by everyone.
The Rev. Peter B. Ives, former pastor the First Churches, is editor of the commemorative volume.