SoJourner Truth Sculpture

Virtual Visit: Object Stories - Sojourner Truth

Discover the story behind Ruth Inge Hardison’s NYS Harlem Art Collection sculpture, Sojourner Truth.
Virtual Visit: Object Stories - Sojourner Truth

Virtual Visit: Object Stories - Sojourner Truth

Discover the story behind Ruth Inge Hardison’s NYS Harlem Art Collection sculpture, Sojourner Truth

Fast Facts
  1. The sculpture is a bronze cast replica created in 1968 by Ruth Inge Hardison.
  2. The height of the sculpture is 25” tall. The real Sojourner Truth was six feet tall.
  3. A bust of Sojourner Truth can be found at the U.S. Capitol. She is the first African American woman to be honored with a statue in that building.
  4. Hardison is known for sculpting many famous African American heroes including Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  5. Inge Hardison was the only woman among the six artists who formed the Black Academy of Arts and Letters.
  6. Ruth Hardison passed away in 2016 at age 102.


When did Hardison begin to make clay sculptures?
Before working as an artist, Hardison was an actress and had a brief Broadway career. While performing the play What a Life, she began making clay sculptures during downtime in between acts.

Which world leader was presented with the Sojourner Truth sculpture?
Governor Mario Cuomo presented newly freed Nelson Mandela with Hardison’s Sojourner Truth sculpture in 1990 on behalf of the people of New York.

What was the name of Hardison’s famous collection of busts from the early 1960s?
Hardison sculpted a group of busts for a collection called “Negro Giants of History” which featured Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King Jr., George Washington Carver, and Sojourner Truth.

When was the sculpture acquired by the New York State Harlem Art Collection?
Hardison submitted the 25-inch tall bonded bronze replica sculpture of Sojourner Truth to the New York State Harlem Art Collection in 1976.

What academy was Hardison a founding member of?
Hardison was a founding member of The Black Academy of Arts and Letters in 1969, which promoted Black artists' accomplishments.  She was the only female member for a long time.

Who was Sojourner Truth?
Sojourner Truth, originally named Isabella Baumfree, was born enslaved in Hurley, New York.  She escaped from her enslaver in 1826 and changed her name to Sojourner Truth in 1843. She became an itinerant preacher and advocated for abolition, and civil and women’s rights. She is known for her famous speech “Ain’t I a Woman?” given in Akron, Ohio in 1851.

How did Hardison produce and sell her artwork?
Hardison often made her sculptures from clay and had them mass-produced in order to make them affordable to mass audiences. In 1961, she wrote to a friend and said, "I feel that everybody should have the pleasure of owning a work of art."

How did Hardison get into sculpting?
Hardison was a model for students at an art school. While on a break, she began working on some clay leftover in the classroom. “I would handle the clay and I found that it was interesting,” she once recalled. “I began to do people I knew and people began to buy what I was doing.”

Can other works by Hardison be seen in New York State?
Though many of her works are owned privately, there is a large, abstract sculpture called "Jubilee" found at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn. At Hunts Point School in the Bronx, Hardison installed sculptures of children. A five-foot sculpture of a mother and child was given to Mount Sinai Hospital.

How did Sojourner Truth get her name?
According to Truth, her name came from God during her work as a traveling preacher. In her own words, "Sojourner because I was to travel up and down the land showing people their sins and being a sign to them, and Truth because I was to declare the truth unto the people."