Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a seven-foot bronze statue of eminent abolitionist and suffragist Sojourner Truth was unveiled at the Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park in Ulster County to commemorate the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage.
"Sojourner Truth's passionate belief in equal rights for all made her an enduring role model for the reformers of the civil rights and women's equality movements," Governor Cuomo said. "As New York celebrates the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage, it is fitting that we recognize this courageous and pioneering New Yorker and look to her for inspiration as we continue striving to make New York State a beacon for equality and inclusion for all people."
"The unveiling of the Sojourner Truth statue at the Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park is a fitting way to honor the abolitionist and suffragist as part of the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, Chair of the NYS Women's Suffrage Commission. "The granting of the right to vote in New York in 1917 as the first major state to do so helped lead the way three years later for the 19th Amendment. But often missing from those decades of struggle is the stories of strong African American leaders like Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, and others. This monument finally expands representation of all who have contributed to New York's rich history. We have made great strides in the fight for women's equality, but we still have more work to do to achieve true equality and justice for all."
Isabella "Bomefree" Baumfree was born enslaved in Ulster County among Dutch people. She freed herself from slavery one year before legal enslavement ended in New York. Following her deeply held religious views she traveled as an itinerant preacher, speaking 'truth' to the harsh inequities people of color and women suffered while calling for systemic change. Naming herself Sojourner Truth, she became one of the nation's leading voices for abolition and universal suffrage in the 19th century.
Created by Yonkers sculptor Vinnie Bagwell, the statue includes text, braille and symbols to encourage viewers to walk around it and study its surface. The folds of her skirt act as a canvas to depict Sojourner's life experiences, including images of a young enslaved mother comforting her child, a slavery sale sign, images of her abolitionist peers, and a poster for a Women's Suffrage March.
In support of the sculpture installation, New York State Parks has added educational content to its website, including information and videos on Sojourner Truth, Vinnie Bagwell's sculpture, the women's suffrage movement, and current voter registration information. To learn more, visit: https://parks.ny.gov/history/women/.
State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, "New York State Parks is proud to be the home of this stirring Sojourner Truth statue at the Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park, which advances our mission to tell a more complete version of our state and national history. Thanks to Governor Cuomo and Lt. Governor Hochul for their commitment to recognize and support people past and present who fight for equality and freedom."
Senator George Amedore said, "As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment, it is fitting that we memorialize the remarkable contributions and legacy of Hudson Valley native Sojourner Truth. I'd like to thank Lt. Governor Hochul, as well as New York State Office of Parks, for this wonderful addition to the Walkway Over the Hudson."
Senator Sue Serino said, "A revered abolitionist and suffragist, Sojourner Truth's legacy is one of resilience, hope and freedom for all. This breathtaking work of art is a fitting tribute to such a remarkable woman. Her statue here on the Walkway Over the Hudson will serve as a ready reminder to all who pass that we all have the ability to overcome adversity, unite our community, and do our part to create a better and more just world."
Assembly Member Didi Barrett said, "As this year marks 100 years since the 19th Amendment was ratified, I'm proud to celebrate one of New York's most courageous and persevering leaders, a woman who fought for both women's suffrage and racial equality," said Assemblymember Didi Barrett, who chairs the NY State Legislative Women's Caucus. "Sojourner Truth was an abolitionist, feminist and a trailblazer on whose shoulders all New York women stand. This monument will honor her legacy, reminding us and future generations to use our voices for change and to stand up for what we believe in."
Assembly Member Jonathan Jacobson said, "The Walkway Over the Hudson is the perfect location to recognize an Ulster County native who broke all barriers in her quest for voting and equal rights for women of all races which was a daring and courageous battle in the 19th Century. It is so fitting that the statue of Sojourner Truth was dedicated on National Women's Equality Day as we celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote in our country. Having the statue at the Walkway on the Hudson means that thousands of people every year will be inspired by this great American hero."
Ulster County Executive Patrick Ryan said, "Ulster County is honored to recognize the life and the legacy of Sojourner Truth. Placing this statue at the entrance of a walking bridge is a fitting tribute to a woman who in 1826, only a few miles from where this statue is located, started her own famous walk to freedom. During her life, Truth was quick to note that she made the conscious choice to walk away from a life of slavery. She knew her actions were justified, even if it violated the law, and thus she refused to run. Sojourner Truth shared her experiences and her quest for freedom with our nation and her story continues to inspire many to this day. I want to thank Governor Andrew Cuomo, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, and all of those involved who have helped create a monument to one of the most enduring figures of our county, state, and nation."
Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison said, "What a fitting and wonderful accomplishment and tribute. "Sojourner Truth has long been recognized as an abolitionist and women's rights leader - as well as a human rights crusader. Born into slavery in Ulster County, she has long served as a stark reminder to the Hudson Valley that the fight for equality and justice had be to won everywhere -- and, in some ways, that fight continues today. Now when tourists and area residents alike cross the Walkway Over the Hudson, they will see this shining example, this statue of a woman who has become a symbol of freedom, of hope and of resiliency."
Lloyd Supervisor Fred Pizzuto said, "The Town of Lloyd is honored to be the home of this amazing statue of Sojourner Truth. The first 30 years of her live spent here in Ulster county were full of struggle and hardship but she overcame and her strength became an inspiration to so many. It is our hope that this beautiful statue becomes a visual celebration of her achievements and inspires those who come to visit to learn more about her life and the African-Americans who helped build this county."
Artist Vinnie Bagwell said, "On the 100th anniversary for Women's Suffrage and the 19th Amendment, I am delighted to mark it with the permanent installation of 'Sojourner Truth'. It has been an honor for me to create this work because this is a moment when the Empire State of New York turns the protest into progress. This public artwork—sited in such a public place—will enlighten and unify the community-at-large in our values and commitment to fight for justice and equality." - Vinnie Bagwell, Sculptor
Executive Director, Walkway Over the Hudson Organization, Elizabeth Waldstein-Hart said, "We are tremendously pleased that this iconic statue of Sojourner Truth has a home in Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park," said Elizabeth Waldstein, Executive Director, Friends of the Walkway. "The Walkway is a place that inspires thought and reflection, and it is our hope that thousands of visitors will become familiar with one of the Hudson Valley's most courageous leaders. They will leave knowing the Sojourner Truth story and support her life's work as we continue to come together to create a more equitable and just society for future generations."
New York State is the home of the women's rights movement. It hosted the first-ever Women's Rights Convention at Seneca Falls in 1848, organized by Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Sixty-nine years later, on November 6, 1917, women in New York State secured the right to vote. Three years after that, the 19th Amendment was ratified, granting women across the United States the right to vote.
The New York State Women's Suffrage Commission, chaired by Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, is supporting and promoting programs to commemorate women's suffrage through 2020, which will mark a century since the 19th Amendment was ratified. The Commission's programs celebrate the accomplishment of women's suffrage and the central role of New Yorkers and New York State in this milestone, while also helping shape the future to ensure a more just and equitable society for all. To learn more, visit www.ny.gov/suffrage.