A portrait of Sojourner Truth by artist Grace Lynne Haynes has leapt from page to brick. The work made its large-scale debut last week as a 30-foot-high mural, painted on the rear wall of the art hub Project for Empty Space in Newark, New Jersey.
Titled “Sojourner Truth, Founding Mother,” the portrait originally appeared on the cover of The New Yorker in August — Haynes’ first for the publication — to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, which secured the right for some women to vote in the United States.
Its mural form, revealed by Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka and Project for Empty Space, marks a new chapter for the work. Cast onto a large, white wall, the completed piece overlooks the Prudential Building, which is poised to serve as a “super” polling site during the 2020 presidential election Nov. 3.
“Sojourner Truth was one of the earliest African-American women to fight for the rights and liberties of all American women,” Baraka said in a statement. “While she may have spoken and fought for women’s rights and against racism more than 150 years ago, her message remains as current and important now as it did then. It is truly appropriate for us to honor her work now and carry her message into the future, both through activism and art.”
Captured in the artist’s characteristically striking palette and style, the painting pays tribute to Truth’s immeasurable role in advancing equity. Haynes’ told The New Yorker she chose to paint the activist, who died in 1883, for the cover “to shed light on her legacy, which reminds women that no matter what has happened in their lives, they can still have a powerful impact on society.”
“Truth was a woman who defied all odds. She was ahead of her time, a futurist with a grand vision to make America a more equitable country,” Haynes wrote in a separate piece for CNN about her decision. “This cover amplifies her message: We are all women, and we all deserve to be respected. But it also contends with the fact that the road to equality for Black women has been different.”
The mural is presented as part of an ongoing public art series dedicated to social justice. Helmed by Baraka and Newark’s Division of Arts and Culture, the project kicked off in June with two murals “painted in solidarity with Black Lives Matter demonstrations around the world” and continues with two new creations, to be completed by artists Layqa Nuna Yawar and Malcolm Rolling.
Top Image: "Sojourner Truth, Founding Mother" (2020), Grace Lynne Haynes. Photo: Anthony Alvarez.