Tucker Letter

P.O. Box 1296
Annandale, VA 22003
Tel : 703-813-6209
Fax: 703-813-6210
info@nwhm.org

July 22, 2002

Dr. C. DeLores Tucker
National Chair
National Political Congress of
Black Women, Inc.
8401 Colesville Road
Suite 400
Silver Spring, MD 20910

Dear Dr. Tucker:

Thank you for making the National Women’s History Museum (NWHM) aware of
your efforts to secure legislation that would cause a likeness of Sojourner
Truth to be incorporated in the “Memorial to the Pioneers of the Women’s
Suffrage Movement,” commonly called the Portrait Monument. This statue
was a gift from the National Women’s Party accepted on behalf of Congress
by the Joint Committee on the Library on February 15, 1921. The Committee
ordered that an inscription by the sculptress, Adelaide Johnson, be whitewashed
before the ceremony. The statue was placed in the Rotunda of the Capitol
for an unveiling ceremony on February 15, 1921, but was then permanently
installed in the Crypt where it was not publicly accessible for most of
its history. Following Congressional adoption of House Concurrent Resolution
216 in September 1996, the sculpture was moved to the Capitol Rotunda after
the Women Suffrage Statue Campaign raised private funds to alter the base
of the statue and pay for the moving costs. The National Museum of Women’s
History, which is now known as NWHM, was a major contributor to these efforts.

The National Women’s History Museum believes that Sojourner Truth is among
the leaders of the Women’s Suffrage Movement who should be appropriately
honored. NWHM is actively seeking a site for a museum that could present
a full and complete story of women’s achievements, which continue to this
day. The Museum’s treatment of the efforts to secure political freedoms
will include the contributions of abolitionists– not only Sojourner Truth,
but also men and women, black and white, who pursued the vision of equality
without regard to race or gender. Promotion of scholarship and education
through the Museum will best insure that present and future generations
acknowledge all the leaders of the Women’s Suffrage Movement, including
Sojourner Truth.

NWHM understands the symbolic value of public monuments. There are eloquent
arguments that The Portrait Monument is not an accurate symbolic representation
of the personalities and forces that generated the Women’s Suffrage Movement.
The National Political Congress of Black Women, in conjunction with other
organizations, will seek legislation to redress this situation. Since the
Portrait Monument is the property of the Congress, these efforts are properly
addressed to the body that accepted the statue on behalf of the American
public and is empowered to take appropriate action to ensure that our monuments
appropriately honor those whose service to the country ought to be commemorated.

In the course of our discussion, you have made a number of points that
can be briefly summarized:

  • There is consensus among scholars that Sojourner Truth, while not alone
    among other black leaders of the suffrage and abolition and later civil
    rights movements, was a contemporary of the three leaders who are now
    honored and would be accepted as an appropriate symbol of the collective
    contributions of all Black Americans
  • A bust of Sojourner Truth can be sculpted into an unfinished portion
    of the Portrait Monument without physical damage to the images depicted
    in the original sculpture
  • There is historic precedent for modifying works of art that have been
    donated to the Congress (indeed, the Portrait Monument itself has been
    altered)
  • Modification of the Portrait Monument can be accomplished without removing
    the sculpture from its current position of honor in the Capitol Rotunda
  • The effort is to be funded by appropriated funds, which are available
    for these purposes

On the basis of these understandings of the scope of your intended legislation,
the National Women’s History Museum endorses and will support efforts to
incorporate a likeness of Sojourner Truth in the Portrait Monument.

We look forward to the support of the National Political Congress of Black
Women in NWHM’s efforts to build an institution that will commemorate the
contributions of all women.

Sincerely,

Susan B. Jollie

President

3 Responses to “Tucker Letter”

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  2. NWHM says:

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