Posted by Terrence Dalton
The Rotary Club of Akron had the pleasure of listening to Theresa Carter and Towanda Mullins at our Tuesday, November 9, 2021, Club meeting.  The purpose of their presentation was to discuss with the Club, the Sojourner Truth Project.  
View the presentation by clicking here or copy and paste this link
So, why is the Sojourner Truth Project so important to Akron?
Sojourner Truth was a brave example of leadership in the women’s suffrage and civil rights movements of the 19th century. Although born into slavery, she transformed herself into Sojourner Truth, traveling America as an itinerant preacher, advocating for abolitionism, women’s rights, woman suffrage, temperance and denouncing slavery.
In May of 1851 Sojourner Truth spoke at the Akron Women’s Rights Convention. She was not invited but attended anyway. She was not asked to speak but rose to advocate for all women’s rights, including women of color. Her speech challenged the exclusion of women of color from the women’s movement, allowing Akron to play an extraordinary role in the fight for voting rights for all women.
What is the Summit Suffrage Centennial Committee and the Sojourner Truth Statue Fund Committee?
The Summit Suffrage Centennial Committee was convened to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. The Committee strives to:
  • educate the public on he progress made over the last 100 years,
  • honor the fight for voting rights for all women — especially many women of color who were excluded from voting until the 1960s,
  • help our community reflect on today’s voting equality and the future of equity for all women. 
So, who is Sojourner Truth and Why Akron?
Sojourner Truth, was born Isabella Baumfree, a slave in Dutch-speaking Ulster County, New York in 1797. Her early years were hard. She was bought and sold four times and subjected to harsh physical labor and violent punishments, and then watched helplessly as her brothers, sisters and children were taken from her and sold.  In May of 1851 Truth came to Akron to attend the Second Ohio Women’s Rights Convention. The convention took place in the Universalist Old Stone Church. Her speech electrified the civil rights and women’s movements for decades to come.
Where will the statue honoring Sojourner Truth be located and who will be commissioned to create the sculpture?
  • A committee was formed to consider several sites around Akron for the statue.
  • Based on survey results it was clear that the statue should be on or near the site of Sojourner’s original speech.
  • The appropriate site was found and with thanks to The United Way of Medina and Summit County, they embraced the opportunity wholeheartedly.
  • Prior to United Way occupying the building at their current location, the building historically housed the income maintenance offices of the Summit County Department of Job and Family Services and was dedicated in 1991 as the Sojourner Truth Building.
  • The Sojourner Truth Plaza will be created in a space that currently is a small parking lot on the north side of the United Way building.
  • This plaza will commemorate the legacy of Sojourner Truth. It will not only elevate and focus on the statue of Sojourner Truth but will also be rich with historical symbolism and interpret her life and her impact. Throughout the plaza there will be seating, lighting and her famous speech will be highlighted. It is the committee’s intention to create a gathering space for students and be a destination for downtown visitors as it marks the northern entrance to the city along North High Street.
  • In moving the project forward the committee decided, instead of a competition, to look within our own community for a local artist, Woodrow Nash, an internationally known artist who had created the first prototype more than 20 years prior, so we reached out to him to re-engage him in this project.
Where can we find out more about the women’s suffrage, Sojourner Truth, and the 19th Amendment?
The Summit Suffrage Centennial Education committee created tools to teach about Sojourner Truth, and these are all available for public use. Hosted by Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro’s office, the web portal featured here has resources for educators and community members alike. The web link allows you to access these resources.
How Can Rotarians Help?
  • Fundraising efforts have gone well so far with the Akron Community Foundation acting as the fiscal agent.  To date, more than $200,000 with an additional $750,000 pledged.  The total cost for the project is $1.5 million.
    • Individuals wishing to donate can visit the Akron Community Foundation’s website.  Click GIVING tab and select Sojourner Truth Project – Akron Fund
    • Every donation will be recognized from $1.00 and up.  Individuals or organizations donating $25,000 or more will be permanently recognized at the site.
  • The committee can use help to tell their story and to share the opportunity throughout our personal networks.
  • Sponsoring educational events
  • Inviting the Committee members to present to other organizations you might belong to.
To learn more about the Sojourner Truth Project, visit their website at or their Facebook page: