[Blackstudies-l] Group Letter regarding Sojourner Truth and Central Park Suffrage Memorial

Maria Lima lima at geneseo.edu
Thu Aug 22 12:49:45 EDT 2019


Following Justin's lead, I've signed the letter and am asking you to do the
same.


Dear scholars and colleagues:

After significant public critique and community board activism, last week
on August 12, the organizers of the proposed women's suffrage monument in
Central Park acknowledged the concerns with their approved design and
announced their intention to incorporate Sojourner Truth. The public
history community in New York, including historical societies based in
Harlem, have been reviewing the new announcement.

Before this solution is seen as adequate there needs to be careful
consideration of the manner in which Truth is included. This group letter
requests that the "Monumental Women" nonprofit engage in dialogue and
consultation with academic experts on the subject and with black community
voices. Please consider signing:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfg2HZS4qg-T03B7AC-FtPcD0mKZ5bVh8rTdsI1zVgPQkwi7A/viewform


There are fears that the private organization plans to announce a new
design on Monday, August 26, without having had substantial dialogue with
scholars engaged with Sojourner Truth. There are clear potential problems
with the assumed new design, which, accordingly to public statements, may
misleadingly show Stanton, Anthony, and Truth all working together in
Stanton's home in 1867.

Local activism in Manhattan Community Board 11 contributed to the decision
to redesign the memorial, and it is critical that such voices be included
in the redesign:
https://www.thevillager.com/2019/07/harlem-historian-suffragettes-statue-is-racist/

Please consider signing the letter at this link:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfg2HZS4qg-T03B7AC-FtPcD0mKZ5bVh8rTdsI1zVgPQkwi7A/viewform


Sincerely,
Todd Fine
PhD Candidate in History, CUNY-Graduate Center

*************************

The Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Statue Fund Inc.
Post Office Box 150-074, Van Brunt Station
Brooklyn, NY 11215

Dear Pam Elam and Coline Jenkins,

As civic activists in New York City's public history community and as
scholars of race and of women's suffrage, we request that the redesign of
the suffrage monument in Central Park be a transparent, inclusive, and
carefully-considered process.

Given your goal to celebrate the centennial year of the nineteenth
amendment and given the substantial public funding you are receiving, we
commend your organization for changing its thematic scope to consider black
figures whose work was often marginalized or maligned by white suffrage
leaders. Yet, if the proposed solution is to adapt the proposed monument to
include Sojourner Truth, it is critical that you now include the voices
whose critique culminated in the decision to redesign.

If Sojourner Truth is added in a manner that simply shows her working
together with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in Stanton's
home, it could obscure the substantial differences between white and black
suffrage activists, and would be misleading. While Truth did stay at
Stanton's home for one week to attend the May 1867 meeting of the Equal
Rights Association, there isn't evidence that they planned or worked
together there as a group of three. Additionally, even at that time,
Stanton and Anthony's overall rhetoric comparing black men's suffrage to
female suffrage treated black intelligence and capability in a manner that
Truth opposed. May 1867 was a single moment in time, and this moment,
purportedly depicted in the redesign, ignores the historical context of the
struggle over the fifteenth amendment. Subsequently, the activists'
statements and actions diverged fundamentally. We must also stress that
Sojourner was a unique individual who spoke her own words; she did not read
words written by others.

We believe that there may be elegant ways to memorialize the full scope of
the suffrage movement to incorporate these challenging differences, but
they will require careful consideration, explicitly including black
community voices and scholars of this history. It is unlikely that there
will be multiple opportunities to create a public monument to Sojourner
Truth, and, if your proposed solution is necessary, this one chance to
honor her legacy deserves careful consideration with broad input.

We ask that you not rush this process, and certainly not rashly propose
another design. Without careful consideration, your decisions might repeat
the mistakes that led to these circumstances.

Sincerely,

Jacob Morris
Director, Harlem Historical Society

Kim F. Hall
Lucyle Hook Professor of English and Professor of Africana Studies, Barnard
College

Jennifer Morgan
Professor of History, Department of Social and Cultural Analysis and
Department of History, New York University

Matthew Guterl
Professor of Africana Studies and American Studies, Brown University

Daphne A. Brooks
Professor of African American Studies, Yale University

Matthew Frye Jacobson
Professor of American Studies and History, Yale University

Leslie Podell
Creator of "The Sojourner Truth Project," www.thesojournertruthproject.com

[ .... other scholars and civic leaders ]
-- 
Todd Fine
PhD Candidate in History, CUNY-Graduate Center
+1 857.234.0920
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