Sunday, December 9, 2012

Civil Rights Memorials: Sojourner Truth and the NAEI - Florence, MA

Interesting Places I've Photographed
Sojourner Truth
and the 
Northampton Association of Education and Industry
Florence, MA
Topic: Civil Rights Memorials

Sojourner Truth

            N 42° 19.919 W 072° 40.475

Quick Description: 

A site dedicated to Sojourner Truth and the Northampton Association of Education and Industry is located in Sojourner Truth Memorial Park on Park Street in the Florence section of Northampton.

Long Description:

Sojourner Truth Memorial Park contains a statue of the civil rights activist. In addition the park contains three monuments with plaques. The first, at the entrance, tells the story of the Utopian community, The Northampton Association of Education and Industry, where Sojourner Truth was a key member. Two other plaques, near the statue, give the biography of Sojourner Truth.

The life-size bronze figure of Sojourner Truth is shown standing in the middle of a 6' square by 1' high granite base. She is wearing a period head covering, long scarf and floor length dress. She holds a walking stick, an an angle, by the palm of her right hand. The stick rest on the ground behind her right foot.
The statue was created by Thomas Jay Warren and was a gift from the sculptor to the City of Northampton. The statue was installed in the park in 2002.

Below the first biographical plaque is a plaque about the statue which is inscribed:

A gift to the City of Northampton
Sculptor Thomas Jay Warren
Landscape Architect, Dening Design Associates

Two plaques are inscribed with Sojourner Truth's biography:

Sojourner Truth was born a slave named Isabella in upstate new York in 1797. She worked for a series of five masters while raising five children. When slavery ended in New York in 1827, she settled in New York City. A deeply religious woman, Isabella took the name Sojourner Truth after God spoke to her. She was 46 years old when she set out walking and preaching through Long Island and Connecticut. Eventually she reached Massachusetts and joined the Northampton Association of Education and Industry.

From her home here in what is now Florence, Truth broadened her mission and began speaking out for the abolition of slavery and for women's rights.

Continued on second plaque:

After the demise of the Northampton Association, Samuel L. Hill and others founded the factory village of Florence. With Hill's help, Sojourner Truth bought her own home on Park Street. Unable to read or write, Truth dictated her story to a neighbor. The Narrative of Sojourner Truth was published in 1850. She became well-known as an orator, singer, evangelist, abolitionist and reformer, selling her Narrative and photographs of herself throughout the nation.
Although she moved to Battle Creek, Michigan in 1857, she was fondly remembered in Florence, where her wisdom and wit were especially valued. Samuel Hill noted that his long acquaintance with Sojourner truth confirmed her "title to the name you have chosen, and its record in humanity's 'Book of Life.'"

As you enter the plaza there is a monument with the history of the Northampton Association of Education and Industry, which played an important role in the life of Sojourner Truth. It is inscribed:

The Northampton Association of Education and Industry was one of a number of Utopian communities that arose in the 1840's Its members were ardent abolitionists who believed in equality for blacks and women. The Association served as a haven for radical reformers and was a stop on the Underground Railroad. Sojourner Truth and David Ruggles, a well-known African-American abolitionist, were valued members. Engaged in silk manufacture and other economic activities, the Association paid all its workers equally. Fredrick Douglass remembered its people as the "most democratic I have ever met. There was no high, no low, no masters, no servants, no white, no black."

In 1993, the Committee for Northampton was formed to dismantle racism and to call for social justice. This memorial was inspired by the life of Sojourner Truth and the interracial community to which she belonged. Welcome to this site and to this cause. 

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