Sojourner Truth To Be Memorialized in Steuben Co. Courtyard

by Josh Colletta

The Steuben County Courtyard is one step closer to getting a life-sized bronze statue of Sojourner Truth.

The Herald Republican says the Downtown Angola Coalition is pursuing a grant from the Indiana Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission through their Preserving Women’s Legacy grant program, and the Steuben County Board of Commissioners has given their approval.

According to the state’s web site, the centennial commission and grants are being presented in partnership with Indiana Humanities and the Office of Community and Rural Affairs. Selected communities will receive matching funds between $15,000 and $40,000, all in an effort to shine a light on how women have led and shaped cities and towns across the Hoosier State.

Downtown Coalition President Colleen McNabb-Everage says Sojourner Truth was chosen to be memorialized because she spoke on the front porch of the Steuben County Courthouse in 1861.

Truth was born into slavery in upstate New York in 1797, but escaped at the age of 30, and after living for some time in New York City, began her travels across the country in 1843. By the 1850’s, she had made her way to the Midwest, and she eventually settled in Battle Creek, though she continued speaking nationally.

Famous for being a freed slave who spoke out against slavery and in favor of women’s rights, Truth’s speeches in Indiana also included one in Kosciusko County that drew an angry mob, as freed slaves were not allowed in the state at the time, and there were strict laws against the presence of black people. The Angola speech was also controversial, but Truth was protected by the Scott Twp. Home Guard as she promoted the Civil War and the abolitionist movement.

The new statue is estimated to cost about $35,000 and will stand six feet tall — Truth’s reported height. The Downtown Coalition hopes to hire James Haire, a Crawfordsville native, to sculpt it. It would stand opposite the bust of Baron von Steuben, the namesake of Steuben County; a Prussian general and leader of American forces in the Revolutionary War.

If and when the project is awarded the grant, the funding will have to be matched one-to-one locally.