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Published: Thursday, 4/30/2009

Truth's sojourn continues

SOJOURNER Truth spent much of her adult life traveling across the Midwest, New York, and New England, talking about slavery, religion, and women's rights. Eventually, her travels took her to Washington during the Civil War, where she met President Abraham Lincoln and, years later, President Ulysses S. Grant.

On Tuesday, she returned to the nation's capitol when First Lady Michelle Obama unveiled a statue of the former slave in Emancipation Hall at the newly opened underground U.S. Capitol Visitor Center.

The bronze bust by acclaimed sculptor Artis Lane is both simple and powerful. It is a fitting tribute to a woman who could neither read nor write but waged a successful court battle against a southern slave owner for the return of her son, was counted among the friends of prominent 19th-century evangelists, utopians, pacifists, abolitionists, and women's rights advocates, and gave the memorable "Ain't I a Woman?" speech at a women's rights convention in Akron in 1851.

The slave born Isabella Baumfree might be disappointed if she knew that more than 125 years after her death, minority women are poorly represented among the statues that adorn the Capitol.

She is the first black woman thus honored, and there are no statues of Asian or Hispanic women. But as her adopted name suggests, Sojourner Truth also knew that the destination, not the length of the journey, is what matters.

Truth concluded her talk in Akron by commenting that "old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say." As it turned out, she continued to have something to say for more than three decades, until her death in 1883.

And she speaks to us today and will continue to speak in the future to everyone who believes that all people deserve equal rights.

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